CHELMSFORD, Mass. -- Dracut High senior Matt Silva had been leveled, smashed, kneed and elbowed all night by a gritty Chelmsford defense.
After an eight-yard run to the heart of the Lions’ defense in the fourth quarter, the quarterback took a well-deserved walk to the sidelines while favoring his ribs.
He dropped to a knee and succumbed to the pain that he had felt all night. However, after the ever-vocal quarterbacks coach Bobby Russo gave him a few words of encouragement, Silva looked up at the scoreboard and the pain seemed to evaporate.
The No. 23 Dracut Middies (5-2, 1-0 Merrimack Valley Conference - Small) were on their way to a 42-21 upset of No. 13 Chelmsford (5-2, 1-0 MVC - Large) on the road, and all the hard work the Middies had put in had paid off.
"We don’t let them get big heads," said Dracut head coach Jason Houston of his team. "We knock them down in practice all week long...but this is a good group of kids. They all work hard."
Silva led his team against a physical defense and had to earn every yard he got on the ground -- all 100 of them. The Dracut captain ran 13 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns and completed 12 of 19 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns.
His favorite target -- wide receiver Chris Malonis -- finished the game with seven catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Malonis also had an interception on defense.
Chelmsford keyed in on Silva all night. The Lions hit him when he had the ball, handed it off and even after he threw it -- yet Houston basically had to pry the ball from Silva’s hands when he was injured in the fourth quarter. He simply did not want to give up the reigns.
"I want the ball in my hands at all times," Silva professed about his playing style. "I’m the quarterback. If I make a mistake it's my fault, if I throw an interception it's my fault, if I get sacked it's my fault.
"I believe I have the best offensive line in the state, and they really stepped up tonight."
Chelmsford’s Tim Joy blitzed Silva frequently, but the offensive line stepped up to the task. Joy finished with 10 tackles and an interception. The interception came after he faked a blitz and creeped back into coverage while Silva was focusing on evading the Chelmsford defensive line.
The Middies had excellent line play on both sides of the ball.
Although Chelmsford’s Joe Gennaro ran the ball 10 times for 92 yards in the first half, Dracut’s defense limited him to 36 yards in the second half. Gennaro was injured coming into the week but looked fine at tailback.
As the Middies' lead grew larger in the second half, Chelmsford tried to score quickly by taking the ball to the air. Quarterback AJ Rotella completed nine of 23 passes for 109 yards with two interceptions.
The Lions also tried to find success on offense with Eddie Sheridan. The junior running back, who fits the Gennaro mould in Chelmsford’s offense, had five carries for 65 yards and one touchdown.
The two teams put on a back-and-forth battle late in the second quarter that could have been the turning point in the game.
Dracut had a 6-play drive culminate in a touchdown to take a 14-7 lead, but then let Chelmsford tied the game five plays later at 14 with four minutes, two seconds remaining in the half.
The Middies responded quickly with a 3-play drive just over a minute later, and then made it a 2-possession game after sophomore Zach Bassett intercepted Rotella on Chelmsford’s first play of the drive.
Dracut’s upset of Chelmsford came at the cost of a lot of bruises on Friday night, but after an 0-2 start to the season, the Middies will take a few bumps to get a few wins down the stretch.
NO. 23 DRACUT 42, NO. 13 CHELMSFORD 21
DRA 0 28 7 7 --- 42
CHE 7 7 0 7 --- 21
C - Joe Gennaro 2 run (Charlie Calenda kick)
D - Chris Malonis 18 catch from Matt Silva (Silva kick)
D - Silva 1 run (Silva kick)
C - Eddie Sheridan 12 run (Calenda kick)
D - Silva 41 run (Silva kick)
D - Zach Bassett 16 interception return (Silva kick)
D - Malonis 86 catch from Silva (Silva kick)
C - Gennaro 1 run (Calenda kick)
D - Malonis 27 catch from Silva (Silva kick)