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Apr. 10—The battle of Northeastern Conference South unbeaten teams was looking like it was going to be a blowout.

Winthrop’s Chris Ferrara found pay dirt from 12-yards out to give his team a 21-point lead over host Gloucester with 8:59 remaining in the second quarter and was dominating play on both sides of the ball at the time.

Instead of packing it in, however, the Fishermen chose to hit back. Gloucester chipped away at the lead and had the ball twice in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie, eventually falling a little shy in a 27-20 loss at Newell Stadium. The Vikings (4-0) finish up at 3-0 in the NEC South while the Fishermen fall to 3-2 after their first NEC South defeat.

While Gloucester was not playing for a moral victory on Friday night, it was playing to finish undefeated in the NEC South and the unofficial conference crown, head coach Dan O’Connor could only praise his squad.

“That’s the closest we’ve played to Gloucester football in the two years I’ve been coach,” O’Connor said. “We played good, solid football and stepped up as the game went on. We don’t like to take moral victories out of losses but I was proud to see that kind of fight and response.”

Needing a spark while trailing 21-0, Gloucester got it from its passing game. Two plays after hitting Aidan Cornetta (4 catches, 78 yards) for 32-yards up the seam, quarterback Brett Gaipo (season high 101 yards passing) lofted one up for tight end Jayden DelTorchio, who hauled it in at its high point for a 24-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 21-7 with five minutes to go in the half.

Winthrop tried to take back the momentum before the break, driving into the red zone. But Cornetta intercepted a pass in the end one, his second interception of the game, to thwart the scoring chance.

“Those drive stopping interceptions from Aidan were huge, we may not have been in a position to get back in the game without those,” O’Connor said. “And Jayden is just the type of player who can make a play like that and get everyone energized.”

Gloucester made it a one-score game on the first drive of the second half, going 65 yards in 11 plays and culminating with a one-yard sneak from Brett Gaipo on fourth and goal to make it 21-13. Gloucester got a second chance at fourth and goal after a pass interference penalty moved the ball from the three to the one on fourth down.

Winthrop responded to make it a two-score game again on its next drive when quarterback Duke Doherty ducked in from three yards out to extend the Winthrop edge to 27-13. But Gloucester again got it back to one-score when Quinten Ulrich took back the ensuing kickoff, 71-yards for a touchdown to make it 27-20 with 3:23 to play in the third quarter. Ulrich was playing the upback spot and received the kickoff while going back on the ball, then making a quick cut to find a seam and breaking away for the score.

Gloucester came away with three more big stops on defense with Winthrop driving in the red zone. Zach Abbott’s fourth down sack ended one Winthrop. Cornetta then came up with his third takeaway on the next drive, recovering a fumble inside the 10. Finally, Gloucester stuffed a fourth-and-one try from inside the 10 with under a minute to go.

The Winthrop defense, however, also came up big as it did not allow Gloucester to get past its only 30-yard line, forcing a three-and-out, recovering a fumble and making a stop as the clock ran out to preserve the 27-20 win.

A week ago in its loss to Beverly, Gloucester found itself down 14-0 without playing a snap on defense. On Friday, Gloucester fell behind 14-0 without running a snap on offense.

Winthrop scored on its opening drive with Doherty scoring from six-yards out.

On the ensuing kickoff, the ball landed between Gloucester’s upbacks and deep returners and Winthrop won the race to the ball, recovering at the Gloucester 30. Eight plays later, on fourth-and-8, Doherty ducked out of a sack after a Gloucester lineman came in unblocked, rolled to his right and hit Ryan Hovermale for a 12-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

“We need to get off to better starts and it could have been a different outcome today if we did,” O’Connor said. “We need to work on that but I liked the way we stuck with it. At 14-0 it was like here we go again, but they stuck together and got back in it.”

Gloucester returns to action next Friday when Peabody visits Newell Stadium (5 p.m.).

Winthrop 27, Gloucester 20

at Newell Stadium, Gloucester

Winthrop (4-0) 14 7 6 0 5/8 27

Gloucester (3-2) 0 7 13 0 5/8 20

W- Duke Doherty 6 run (Bobby Hubert kick)

W- Ryan Hovermale 12 pass from Doherty (Hubert kick)

W- Chris Ferrara 12 run (Hubert kick)

G- Jayden DelTorchio 24 pass from Brett Gaipo (Cameron Widtfeldt kick)

G- Gaipo 1 run (run failed)

W- Doherty 3 run (kick failed)

G- Quinten Ulrich 71 kickoff return (Widtfeldt kick)

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing: Winthrop- Bobby Hubert 17-91, Duke Doherty 17-88, Chris Ferrara 9-56, Ryan Hovermale 5-50, Ricky Rosado 3-2. Gloucester- Caleb DeCoste 14-59, Quinten Ulrich 5-20, Brett Gaipo 3-4, Aidan Cornetta 2-(-2).

Passing: Winthrop- Duke Doherty 3-10-66-1-2. Gloucester- Brett Gaipo 9-18-101-1-0.

Receiving: Winthrop- Ryan Hovermale 2-48, Mike Chaves 1-18. Gloucester- Aidan Cornetta 4-78, Jayden DelTorchio 1-24, Quinten Ulrich 2-7, Robbie Schuster 1-0, Caleb DeCoste 1-(-8).

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