WINCHESTER — The offense truly came to life for the Winchester High on Saturday, and it was a key component in a successful home opener, along with a defense that has not been scored on in two consecutive games.
The Red & Black got two rushing touchdowns and 134 rushing touchdowns from junior running back Derek Gianci, plus 106 passing yards and a touchdown from quarterback Brady Martin in a 20-0 triumph over Arlington, Saturday at chilly Knowlton Stadium.
Winchester is now 2-1 on the season with another home game on tap for this Saturday morning against Lexington.
The only downside for the Winchester offense was that it did almost nothing in the second half, when it was still trying to rack up yards and points against the Spy Ponders.
"We lost our composure a little bit, and we kind of lost sight of what we were here to do," said Winchester coach Wally Dembowski. "It's great to win 20-0 and it's great to win two in a row, but nothing happened the rest of the day (after scoring on the first three possessions), and that's the most frustrating thing."
Martin had 100 of his passing yards in the first half, and Gianci had 129 of his rushing yards in the first half. Credit the Arlington defense and coaching staff for its halftime adjustments, but the Winchester offense was unable to execute in order to regain its momentum.
"It was sloppy," said Dembowski. "We played pretty well defensively in the first half, and we made some plays offensively in the first half, but then we came out of our sense of jobs and sense of priorities, and we did not have a good second half."
Arlington lost two weeks at the start of the season to covid protocols, and it showed right from the start of the contest. Confusion on the opening kickoff had the Spy Ponders starting off from their own 4. They went three and out, and Winchester's first possession started at the Arlington 35.
Martin, a third-year varsity player and first-year quarterback, went right to work, delivering a quick pass to slot receiver Camilo Vozzella, who cut back and forth through the Arlington secondary for 17 yards to the 18. Gianci's first carry went for 14 yards, setting up a first and goal at the 4. Two plays later, Gianci broke a tackle at the 3 and fell into the end zone from seven yards out. The extra point was blocked, so Winchester held a 6-0 lead.
The Spy Ponders offensive problems were compounded on their next series by the first of four sacks for Winchester outside linebacker Gabe Morais, and the first of five procedure penalties. They quickly punted again and Winchester got the ball back at its 41.
Arlington did well defensively on the first two downs, but on third and 14, Martin hit Henry Kraft on a wide receiver screen. The fourth-year senior took advantage of a couple blocks to pick up 13 yards, setting up a fourth and one at midfield. Gianci went over left guard for three yards and a first down.
Rushes of four and nine yards from Gianci set up a first down at the Spy Ponder 34. On the next play, Martin lofted a pass down the middle of the field to a wide open Patrick Ross, behind the secondary, for a 34-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked again, and Winchester led, 12-0, after one quarter.
It only got worse for Arlington on offense. Starting at their own 30, the Spy Ponders quickly lost 13 yards on two penalties and a three-yard loss on quarterback Henry Burns' first pass completion.
Arlington eventually punted on a fourth and 24 from the 16, and caught a break when Winchester muffed Aidan Woog-McGinty's punt, giving the Spy Ponders new life at their 33. But another false start penalty, and a second sack for Morais had Arlington going backwards, again. The Spy Ponders soon punted again, and this time Winchester let the ball settle at its 29 for their third series.
Gianci ripped off runs of 15 and 40 yards on the first two plays, setting up the Red & Black with a first down at the Arlington 16. Backup running back Thomas Centurelli gave Gianci a breather and went over right guard for a 13-yard gain down to the 3. Gianci came back in to go around left end for the touchdown. Winchester went for the two-point conversion this time and Martin sent a pass to Kraft in the left side of the end zone to give Winchester a 20-0 lead with 9:48 still to play before halftime.
After another three and out for Arlington, the Red & Black were on the move again with Gianci picking up 11 yards and Martin connecting with Ross for 27 yards to get a first down at the Spy Ponder 25. Gianci picked up 11 more yards on his next run, but was stripped of the football, and Arlington got it back at the 14.
The Spy Ponders got their initial first down of the game with a five-yard Winchester off-sides penalty and an eight-yard run around the left side by Burns. On the next play, Burns completed a pass to Adam Lee, but he also was stripped of the football, and Kraft recovered at the Arlington 34.
The Red & Black moved the ball into the red zone before turning the ball over on downs. Winchester got the ball back three players when defensive tackle Brendan Gill recovered another Arlington fumble at the Spy Ponder 25. The Red & Black moved again into the red zone and again turned it over on downs, as the half finally came to a close.
Winchester did not pick up any first downs in the second half. Arlington had its best drive on its third possession of the third quarter, which carried over to the fourth quarter.
The Spy Ponders even had a first and goal at the Winchester 7. They picked up a yard on first down and then picked up three yards on a Red & Black defensive holding call (half the distance). A false start penalty put Arlington back at the 8 and it could only get to the five before Ryan Welch tackled Burns trying the right side for a two-yard loss on fourth down.
Winchester closed out the shutout with a Caloiero interception on a Burns pass down the right sideline.
"I'm happy because I jumped on them about takeaways and I think they ended up with four," said Dembowski, whose defense also had six sacks, with Gill and Thomas Centurelli getting the other two. "We had a couple fumbles of our own today, which is not a good thing."
Winchester held a Senior Appreciation Day ceremony, after the game, and aside from Gianci, most of the big plays in the game were made by seniors, so it was a happy occasion.