By Tim Lima
---- — BYFIELD — The Thanksgiving matchup against Pentucket will serve as an opportunity for Triton football to begin anew while bidding adieu to recent Thanksgiving Day struggles.
Thanksgiving turkey hasn’t tasted quite right for the Vikings in recent memory. In fact, Triton has lost all but two of the previous 10 meetings against Pentucket, including a 40-12 blowout loss last year.
This year began on the right foot for the Vikings, who entered the season with just seven wins since their last Thanksgiving Day triumph in 2009. The Vikings rolled early, outscoring their first two opponents by a combined score of 77-14. They started 5-2, but have since leveled off on their way to a 5-5 record, and seek their first winning season since 2011 and their first Thanksgiving Day win since 2009.
What the Triton team will be present on Thursday is anybody’s guess. Will it be the Triton team proficient on offense, winning by putting up high scores as it did in their first two weeks against Swampscott or Amesbury; or will it be the Triton team that lost its last three games including last week’s playoff shutout to Newburyport?
Upon looking at the results from this season, it is easy to tell that Triton is as consistent as a light switch. When the Vikings are on, they appear unstoppable. They rolled their first two weeks, scored 35 points against Saugus in early October and allowed just six points to Masconomet.
When they are off, it is a different story.
With the ability for the offense to accumulate upwards of 40 points and the relentlessness of the defense to hold the competition to one score, Triton would be expected to exceed just five wins. The problem likely lies within the structure of a team not used to winning. Teams that rarely face defeat are teams that find ways to win close games. Two of Triton’s losses came by just six points while another by just nine.
“Obviously our losses were very close,” Triton wide receiver Mark Boyle said. “They were down to the wire. The games we won were blowouts. We got away from them and racked up points.”
With quarterback Bradley Whitman at the helm, the Vikings have enjoyed a strong rebounding year and a far better winning percentage than in years past. But, with Whitman at the helm, they also saw their season — for all intents and purposes — come to an end against Watertown in the opening week of the Division 4 playoffs.
“We played that Watertown game hard,” Triton coach Pat Sheehan said. “It was a battle. Both teams played hard. It took a physical toll on us to come out on the short end of that game. We have struggled getting up for practice since.”
Triton has since fallen to both Hamilton-Wenham and Newburyport. In those games, Triton scored a combined seven points and Whitman has thrown a total of six interceptions.
“After our loss to Watertown, we didn’t have the same drive,” Boyle said. “Obviously we looked at that all wrong. We are starting to get back into the groove. We should be treating this week like it’s our Super Bowl because it is our last game. Hopefully we give it a final great sendoff for our seniors.”
With a new playoff system in effect, leaving teams to compete in playoff games before Thanksgiving, an early-round exit could make for a difficult coaching situation: keeping players focused on the task at hand.
“It’s hard,” Sheehan said. “This is Thanksgiving, though. This is our Super Bowl. This is their Super Bowl. This is the last time our seniors and their seniors will play. It’s a rivalry game. It’s not hard to get up for Pentucket.”
A victory over Pentucket serves as a lofty task. The Sachems are coming off of a very strong 7-2 season in which they were the Cape Ann League Kinney Division Champion.
“They’re the league champs and we have the lucky opportunity of being able to try to knock them off,” Boyle said.
The Vikings know what they have waiting for them Thursday, for they have already faced Pentucket earlier in the season, a game in which they lost 19-13. Sheehan doesn’t believe that seeing Pentucket earlier in the year is an advantage for his team.
“As of the last two weeks, we are not playing good football,” Sheehan said. “(Pentucket) just came off of a great game against a real good Bedford team. They’re playing as well as anyone in Division 4, and we are not. The advantage goes to whoever plays better Thanksgiving.”