MARSHFIELD, Mass. -- Tommy Kennedy had tasted an elusive victory over longtime Atlantic coast power Marshfield once before, as a member of Dennis-Yarmouth's freshman team. But tonight's victory, amidst the mud on a soggy night at James Anderson Field, is in its own classification.
"Freaking nothing like this, never ever," the senior two-way lineman beamed, moments after his Dolphins shut out the Rams 14-0 to control their destiny in the Atlantic Coast League. "First time doing it on the varsity field, nothing better, nothing better."
It's the first time the Dolphins (6-0, 3-0) notched a victory over Marshfield since head coach Paul Funk took over in 2001. And considering the Dolphins had won a total of six games in the 1990's before the former Everett assistant took over, we'll just assume it's been quite a while altogether.
"It's a big win," Funk said. "These kids sold out, they gave it everything they had, I give them all kinds of credit in the world. They're a great group, they've practiced hard all week, and they took it to them. They won that game for us. I said it to these guys up front, offensive and defensive lines, they played great."
Indeed, on a night sprinkled with on-again, off-again rain showers, muddying the long grass, the undersized D-Y linemen controlled the line of scrimmage, paving the way to 163 first-half rushing yards (230 overall) and another night with over 200 yards of offense from gritty quarterback Matt Montalto (22 carries, 148 yards, TD; 6 of 13 passing, 82 yards).
On each of their first two drives of the games, the Dolphins marched all the way down the field on long drives to make it 14-0. They went 80 yards in 15 plays and six minutes on their first one, punching it in from four yards out on a dive from fullback Joe Furness. The second time down, thanks to some generous field position, Montalto capped a 12-play, 55-yard drive with a one-yard sneak for the 14-0 score with 4:33 to go in the half.
"Best running back we have," Kennedy laughed of the 5-foot-10 Montalto, whom he opened holes up the middle for tonight. "I'm glad I don't have to tackle him. He's slippery, he's fast, he'll run through you, he'll juke you out, he'll stiffarm you, he'll do anything."
Meanwhile, the Rams (3-3, 1-1) were held to 39 yards of offense in the first half, and were unable to punch in any of their scoring opportunities. Twice, the Rams turned the ball over on downs inside the D-Y red zone. A third time, on the Rams' opening drive of the second half, quarterback Mark Pomella was picked off by free safety Damion Johnson on a fade down the right sideline. Playing a deep Cover-2, Johnson read Pomella's eyes and broke towards the near pylon, plucking the ball out of the air and charging upfield 20 yards before getting pushed out.
Keying Johnson: Based on the defensive sets the Rams rolled out, it appears head coach Lou Silva was erring on the side of caution when it came to respecting the Dolphins' vaunted pass game. D-Y utilizes three and four-receiver sets to set up underneath and crossing routes, as well as quick screens to the flats; but they are at their most dangerous when getting the 6-foot-2 Johnson -- considered one of the state's elite jump-ball receivers -- loose in space.
With the Rams taking a linebacker or two out of the box, that opened up the middle of the field for dives and isolation plays. With the linebackers playing gaps and the linemen conversing playing their lanes, that opened up the running game in between the hashes, evidenced by the 230 yards rushing.
Montalto didn't go as vertical in the passing game as he's done in past games. But when he did, he targeted Johnson four times for passes of 10, 12, 20 and 17 yards. The first three were seven-yard skinny posts, hitting him square in the chest. The fourth turned out to be one of the game's most crucial play, a 12-yard out route to the right sideline on third and four that gave the Dolphins a fresh set of downs with less than five minutes to play.
"We just wanted to see if we were getting single coverage with him, that's all," Funk said of the strategy.
Little guys get it done: Few personify D-Y's modus operandi on defense as well as Kennedy. He's generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds, and sports a thick mohawk, but admits he's more like 5-6, 205, pointing to his stomach and cracking, "I've got some meat."
Like many members of the Dolphins' front seven, Kennedy doesn't intimidate with his physical appearance. But he is quick, and was as key a contributor as any in shooting the inside gaps and preventing the Rams from breaking off long runs up the middle (they never pulled off a run from scrimmage of more than 12 yards).
Deploying a 50 Slant Angle defensive front -- favored against Wing-T schemes like Marshfield's, for its ability to load the box without bailing on pass coverage -- made guys like Kennedy and equally-diminutive defensive end Matt Quatrucci (5-foot-8, 160 pounds) look like playmakers. They'll likely get passing marks for the way they helped bottle up a sound rushing attack led by Mike Williams, Ryan Talanian and quarterback Mark Pomella.
"They're tough, hard-nosed kids," Funk said. "That old saying, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. They got it, they got it. They're tough."
Said Kennedy: "I'm powerful, man. I can push them around. But usually [for me], that's what it's about, shooting the gaps. I've got one gap, the linebacker's looking at the other, and the rest is history."
Staying on the field: Perhaps the best example of how efficient the Dolphins were in the run game tonight was by how well they did at keeping the chains moving. The Dolphins converted 7 of 11 third downs on the night, including five of their first six.
DENNIS-YARMOUTH 14, MARSHFIELD 0
D-Y (6-0, 3-0) 7 7 0 0 --- 14
MSH (3-3, 1-1) 0 0 0 0 --- 0
Joe Furness 4 run (John Terrio kick) 3:12
Matt Montalto 1 run (Terrio kick) 4:42