ARLINGTON - Swampscott came in boasting a high-octane offense known for its relentless aerial assault, led by senior quarterback Peter Kinchley. However, it was its defense and a tough running game that helped it defeat Arlington Catholic, 33-7, in a Division 3 EMass playoff semifinal last night.
Swampscott will face Medfield Saturday in the Super Bowl.
Initially, both defenses were causing problems as neither team could score in the first quarter. Swampscott forced an Arlington Catholic fumble - which AC recovered - in the opening minutes. In turn, the AC defense would not allow Kinchley to get into any sort of rhythm, as he did not complete a pass in his first eight attempts. In fact, his first completion - for a 1-yard loss - came late in the second quarter.
Kinchley's numbers at the half were a far cry from what the Big Blue usually expects from him: three completions in 11 attempts, 45 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Still, Kinchley scored the first touchdown of the game with a 9-yard rush in the second quarter to make it 6-0 (Matt Barbuzzi's PAT attempt was blocked).
Swampscott coach Steve Dembowski was not alarmed by Kinchley's play. "Peter audibled a lot of plays at the line and put us in the right place to impact the defense," he said. "He's just so smart. He's such a winner."
With neither team shining, Justin Mitchell finally stepped up and jumped over several Arlington Catholic defenders to make an improbable TD catch on a 33-yard pass from Kinchley. Barbuzzi's kick made it 13-0 at the half and Swampscott never looked back.
"It was a huge play because we were going to get the ball again [at the start of the second half]," said Dembowski. "We went 90 yards and scored and then we get the ball back in the second half again - we get the momentum there."
Dembowski utilized his running game in the second half, led by junior Ilya Levin and sophomore Kyle Shonio.
"The [offensive] line did a great job and opened up holes and made it really easy," said Shonio.
"Our backs this year are all underclassmen and their development has been the key," said Dembowski. "You've got to credit the wide receivers, too. They blocked, and if you give our backs the open field on this surface, they're going to make the plays."
The Big Blue defense was stingy in the red zone, four times stopping the Cougars in Swampscott territory.
It became the Levin and Shonio show in the fourth quarter as Levin rushed for two touchdowns to increase the margin to 27-0. Levin ended up with 142 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.
After AC scored on a Derek Harmon 18-yard pass from Spencer to make it 27-7, the Cougars went for the onside kick, which was recovered by Swampscott. Shonio ran in from 49 yards for the final touchdown.