SCITUATE — It was not that long ago that Scituate needed a goal-line stand, followed by a length-of-the-field, last minute drive, and two-point conversion to save its playoff life.
But after a true test in the quarterfinals from Dennis-Yarmouth, the Sailors have looked like a machine since, culminating in a 21-0 win over Canton Friday night to secure the Division 5 South title.
That win over D-Y in the quarterfinals, a 28-27 thriller over last year's state champs, was a turning point, according to Scituate coach Herb Devine.
"I think D-Y was a great wake-up call for us because I think we might have underestimated them a little bit," Devine said. "You can't do that in the playoffs, not in our division. Anybody could beat anybody on any night, and D-Y was a great team. That (game-winning) drive really set the tone for our whole postseason so far. That drive, that stop on the goal line, and then that drive to win the game, it's kind of, 'Hey, let's not be there again. Let's take care of our own destiny, take care of business.' I think we've learned from that night."
The third-seeded Sailors (9-1) certainly took care of business right from the start against Canton (8-2). On the game's opening series, Scituate quarterback Aidan Sullivan led an eight-play, 77-yard drive that featured a nice blend of the run and pass, serving as a preview for the rest of the game.
Sullivan, who finished 9-of-14 passing for 221 yards and a touchdown with a rushing score to cap it in the fourth quarter to boot, completed three passes on the drive for 54 yards. Running back Will Sheskey took a short-side pitch from 4 yards out for the score, and following Nolan Startzel's kick, Scituate led, 7-0, less than five minutes in.
Canton, operating out of the spread flexbone, which features a lot of motion and play-action passing, never got going offensively, while everything seemed to click about as much as it could for Scituate on the rain-soaked night.
After a Daniel May interception on the last play of the opening quarter, Sheskey (136 yards on 24 carries) carried twice for 27 yards to put the ball at the Scituate 38-yard line. From there, Sullivan dumped off a screen to Sheskey on the right side, and there were barely any Canton defenders between him and the end zone en route to a 62-yard score.
"(The Bulldogs) were bringing like six or seven (rushers)," Sheskey said. "I just quickly turned. Aidan saw me. He got me the ball quickly, and I had the big guys running down the field helping me out. It was overall a great play by everyone, good execution. It was just a great play."
"We have a couple of plays called there," Devine said. "Either (Sullivan) goes one way or throws the screen. The other way wasn't there. He did a great job, kind of brought (the Canton rushers) in, and the screen was right there. That was a big play."
That 14-0 lead held up through halftime, and with the Scituate defense doing its part, the outcome never seemed in doubt.
From the end of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth, Scituate put together a nine-play drive that included Sullivan completions to Nathan Gould of 20 yards and May of 17. Sullivan finished off the drive and, for all intents and purposes, Canton, with a 1-yard sneak to help push the lead to 21-0.
Scituate moves on to play the winner of Saturday's Amesbury-Swampscott North final, while Canton can take pride in one of its best seasons since the 1980's, winning a share of the Hockomock League Davenport title. And the future is bright, as the Bulldogs return key pieces like running backs Kyle Fitzgerald and Gersom Rivera, quarterback Johnny Hagan, and a line that includes 6-foot-4, 275-pounder Jack Connolly.
"Our kids are very in tune with it, our alumni and our history," Canton coach Dave Bohane said. "They're proud of it. It's been a very long time, but I'm proud of all the teams I've coaches here. We haven't always ended up in these games or Hock championships, but I always admired our work ethic and . . . we've been very competitive with a lot of good teams for a while now. Tonight's kind of a nice step to get to this game, but it would have been great to win it. But I'm proud of all the kids that have played here through the years, obviously, especially this one that has accomplished so much. Very, very proud of Canton football."