Hornets dominate Cougars
for Division 4 Super
Bowl title By Richard
Slate Staff Wr
In the Division 4 Super Bowl against Tri-County, the Manchester Essex football team did what the New England Patriots couldn't
do in Super Bowl XXXXII vs. the New York Giants last February.
The Hornets (13-0) capped off an unbeaten
season with a dominating 36-6 win over the Cougars (9-3) at Gillette Stadium on Saturday morning.
was Manchester Essex's first Super Bowl appearance since 2003 and the school's first title since 1999.
senior quarterback Pat Orlando (9-for-13, 172 yards, 3 touchdowns) not only broke his brother Vinny's school record for
career touchdowns (it was 53, now it's 54) in the historic win but he also rushed for 52 yards in one last outstanding
high school performance.
"We executed from the beginning," said Hornets head coach Mike Athanas.
"We were ready to go. It was special for Pat to get the record, especially with his brother coaching him. We thought
it would happen and he deserved it."
Manchester Essex's top-ranked offense in Eastern Mass.
made its presence felt early and often as the Hornets scored touchdowns on five of its first six drives.
"They're a very, very good team," Cougars head coach Dan Maclean said about the Hornets. "We knew what
we wanted to do but we made some mistakes early and just couldn't get back into it. I can't take anything away from
We knew they could pass, Orlando is a great quarterback, he's showed that all
year. We were just hoping to contain him a little bit but we couldn't. Offensively, we stalled a lot. Too many mistakes,
against a team like that you can't make mistakes. Win or lose, I'm so proud of these kids."
senior quarterback Lucas Mistler (5-for-13, 101 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions; 54 yards rushing) and his teammates could
only manage 161 yards while Manchester Essex had 400 total yards.
On the Hornets' first drive of
the game, they drove 59 yards in nine plays. Refusing to go down, junior running back Ben Kekeisen (39 yards rushing, 58 yards
receiving) broke five tackles and ran it in from 11 yards. After a Tri-County penalty, junior Brian Ciccone ran in the two-point
conversion for an early 8-0 Hornets lead.
"That's what we were talking about in practice,"
noted Kekeisen about his impressive carry, "to keep on running. Nothing's going to keep me out of the end zone, I'm
playing at Gillette Stadium."
Manchester Essex's defense
stopped Tri-County on a fourth-and-2 on the next drive and the Hornets only needed two plays to increase their lead.
Orlando scrambled 20 yards and then he hit Kekeisen with a highlight reel 33-yard catch in the back of the
end zone. The junior juggled the perfectly thrown ball by Orlando before hauling it in. Ciccone's kick put his team up
15-0 with 1:37 left in the first quarter.
The Cougars responded with their best drive of the game,
four plays covered 68 yards for a score. Mistler found senior Jarred Gaumond (3 catches, 69 yards) with a 45-yard pass in
stride for the touchdown on the last play of the first quarter. Tri-County tried a fake kick and pass for the two-point conversion
but it was no good.
A seven-play, 63-yard drive for the Hornets to start the second quarter featured
the aerial attack of Orlando to Kekeisen and junior Doug Kenerson with helpings of Ciccone and Orlando running the ball.
Kenerson finished it off with a 11-yard touchdown catch from Orlando with 6:53 left in the second quarter.
Ciccone's kick gave Manchester Essex a 22-6 lead.
On the first play of the next Cougars drive,
Ciccone intercepted an underthrown pass from Mistler.
Manchester Essex turned it over on downs that
possession but Tri-County couldn't make the Hornets pay as they eventually punted.
his number called three times in a row (17-yard catch, 11-yard run and 16-yard catch) for the last Hornets score of the second
quarter. Ciccone's kick gave Manchester Essex a 29-6 lead heading into the break.
One of the more underrated aspects of Manchester Essex's championship run and fittingly the story
of the second half was their defense. Just like the O'Bryant game in the semifinals, Manchester Essex pitched a shutout
over the last two quarters.
Orlando picked off Mistler early in the third quarter and then Ciccone
put the game away with an amazing catch.
Over two defenders, Ciccone caught a 44-yard pass from Orlando
that went down to the Tri-County 1-yard line. On the next play Ciccone (65 yards rushing) punched it in.
"That catch by Ciccone was awesome," Athanas marveled. "We have too many weapons for people to stop us."
In the fourth quarter, Hornets junior defensive back Seth Young had the third interception of the day
for Manchester Essex. Junior running back Pat Hoffman helped to run the clock out as he had 53 yards rushing in the fourth
With the season finally over, Manchester Essex's Max
Quirk will relish the memories from Saturday and the rest of the season forever.
said the senior linebacker/offensive lineman. "This is everything I could have hoped for. To play for an undefeated season,
in the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium with all these fans here, it's absolutely unbelievable.
had a couple close games but we know that when we come out and play our game, nobody can roll with us."
Hornets junior Jack Bishop added that, "it's the greatest day I've ever had, winning here. We're going to
remember this for the rest of our lives."
|Clayton Morrisey douses Coach Athanas
hold off O'Bryant, 29-21 in Div. 4 semifinals Next
stop: Super Bowl at Gillette By
Richard Slate Staff Writer
— After falling two years in a row in the Division 4 semifinals, the Manchester Essex football team was not going to
let that painful feeling happen again this season.
Last night, the Hornets (12-0) earned a trip to Gillette
Stadium for the Division 4 Super Bowl against Tri-County (9-2) with a thrilling 29-21 win over O'Bryant (10-0) at Reading
"It's the best feeling ever (to be going
to Gillette)," gushed Manchester Essex star quarterback Pat Orlando. "They
came out flying, they're a very good team."
Sticking to their script from this magical, unbeaten
ride, Manchester Essex had three players score touchdowns and countless others made key plays in the memorable victory.
"This is a big win for the program," Hornets head coach Mike Athanas said afterwards. "Defensively,
we made some plays when we had to and shut them down in the second half."
Two halves of football
in the same game could not look much different as the Tigers led 15-14 after the first
quarter but Manchester Essex battled back to lead 22-21 at the half.
One vital touchdown for
the Hornets was all the scoring that would take place in the last 20 minutes
"It was a great game, back and forth and it came down to three plays (two interceptions
and a touchdown for O'Bryant called back on a penalty)," said Tigers head coach Kevin Gadson. "That's the
way it goes. They played their hearts out, you saw what Josh Carrington (their senior quarterback) can do, we just came up
one touchdown short."
O'Bryant took the opening kickoff and committed two straight penalties
before fumbling. Manchester Essex senior Pat Orlando recovered the fumble at the Tigers 17.
later, Hornets junior running back Brian Ciccone ran into the endzone from two yards out. Ciccone added the point-after for
an early 7-0 Manchester Essex lead.
It didn't take O'Bryant long to respond as they forced an
Orlando fumble on the next Hornets drive and took over at the Manchester Essex 17.
From there, Carrington
(9-for-13, 198 yards passing) ran for a 17-yard score then added the two-point
conversion on a clever fake kick and run. O'Bryant led 8-7.
"He's unvelievable," noted
Orlando about his counterpart on O'Bryant. "I've never seen an arm like that and he's fast. He's just
a really good player."
The Hornets had a five-play, 52 yard drive to reclaim the lead. Orlando
went 22 yards on a quarterback keeper and Ciccone added the point-after.
By this point, the game was at breakneck speed as Carrington threw a 64-yard touchdown to Christopher Perkins
(2 catches, 93 yards) on O'Bryant's next play. Jean Lotin's kick gave the Tigers a 15-14 lead.
Manchester Essex used another quick drive, this time three plays covered 45 yards as Orlando (9-for-16,
123 yards) found Ciccone for a sweet 17-yard TD.
Orlando threw a perfect sprial and Ciccone used his
6-foot-4 frame to win the jump ball over the Tigers defensive back.
passed to junior running back Ben Kekeisen (4 catches, 72 yards; 7 carries, 75 yards) for the two-point conversion and a 22-15
Manchester Essex advantage.
The Tigers cut it to one as Carrington threw a 29-yard score to Perkins
before the break. The kick was no good, giving the Hornets a 22-21 lead at halftime.
scored the last points of the game late in the third quarter. Kekeisen ran it
three straight times (39, 13, 2) for the winning margin.
The fourth quarter (and entire
second half for that matter) was about the Hornets' stingy defense.
looked about to score when they drove down to the 8-yard line. However, Hornets junior defensive end Garin Sweet sacked Carrington
for a 6-yard loss then Kekeisen and Ciccone teamed up for the play of the game.
Carrington fired a pass
into the endzone, Kekeisen tipped it away from a Tigers receiver and Ciccone dove on the ball before it touched the ground.
"It was huge," said Ciccone of his pick. "They were driving down the field and we totally
turned the momentum on them by making the interception."
didn't get a score but even more valuable at that point, Manchester Essex ate the clock with a 10-play drive before punting
it back to O'Bryant.
Orlando ended any hopes of a Tigers tying drive when he picked off Carrington
to ice the game.
"After the game, I took them in the huddle and I took the blame for the loss,"
admitted an emotional Carrington. "When we win, I get all the press. We just didn't execute. They're a great
team, they took advantage of our mistakes."
one contest left in the season, Manchester Essex can't wait for the biggest football game of
DIVISION 4 SEMIFINAL BOX
Essex 29, O'Bryant 21
Manchester Essex14807 — 29
Ciccone 2 run (Ciccone kick)
Carrington 17 run (Carrington rush)
ME-Pat Orlando 22 run (Ciccone kick)
OB-Christopher Perkins 64 pass from Carrington
(Jean Lotin kick)
ME-Ciccone 17 pass from Orlando
(Kekeisen pass from Orlando)
OB-Perkins 29 pass from Carrington (kick
ME-Ben Kekeisen 2 run (Ciccone
Rushing: Manchester Essex — Ben Kekeisen 7-75, Pat Orlando 13-28, Brian Ciccone 6-8,
Jack Bishop 2-6 ; O'Bryant — Omari Alfred 9-42, Josh Carrington 14-17, Christopher Cronin 1-6.
Passing: Mancheseter Essex — Orlando 9-16-123-0
; O'Bryant — Carrington 9-13-198-2, Matt Horan 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: Manchester Essex — Kekeisen 4-72, Ciccone 1-36, Doug Kenerson 1-15;
O'Bryant — Christopher Perkins 2-93, Matt Horan 4-48, Alfred 2-36, David Maloney 1-21.
Hornets finish regular season unbeaten (11-0), look
ahead to playoffs Five touchdowns by Orlando
Richard Slate Staff Writer
As first games at a new field go, the Manchester Essex football team made sure Thanksgiving Day 2008 would be a date that
their players, coaches and fans won't soon forget.
The Hornets (11-0, 6-0) beat Georgetown (8-2,
5-1), 40-21, at Ed Field Field yesterday morning in their regular season finale.
Senior quarterback Pat Orlando (11-for-19, 269 yards, 3 touchdowns; 69 yards rushing, 2 TDs) accounted
for five of his team's six touchdowns as Manchester Essex now takes its undefeated record to a playoff matchup with O'Bryant
(10-0) on Tuesday (location and time TBA).
"That's Pat, he did this last year in big games,
he's a football player," said Hornets head coach Mike Athanas. "We want the ball in his hands. To win on Thanksgiving
Day is a great thing, against a really good football team like Georgetown. It's a special day because of all the hard
work that these kids put into this."
Even though the Hornets had already clinched a Commonwealth
Small title and a playoff spot, the game was far from meaningless for the hosts.
think it meant anything but it meant a lot," Orlando said, "it was
a pride game for us."
"It felt really good to beat Georgetown, to go undefeated was one of
our goals at the beginning of the season, we're really happy with that," said Hornets junior running back Brian Ciccone.
The Royals came into the game with an outside chance to win the Cape Ann Small but it was out of their hands.
They needed Amesbury to beat Newburyport but the Clippers had to score over 26 points. It was a moot point by the end of the
contest since the Indians won 22-7 and therefore advance to the playoffs.
For the second straight year,
Orlando clearly outplayed Georgetown star quarterback Joe Esposito. The Royals senior left-hander ran for 97 yards and three
touchdowns but was held to 3-for-11 and 56 yards passing with an interception.
The turnover battle was
the statistic of the game as Manchester Essex forced three fumbles and had an interception while the Royals managed just one
"The turnovers made us lose that game," admitted Georgetown head coach
Matt Bouchard. "They're a great offense and we had a hard time stopping them but we had our opportunities. You can't
win a game against a team like that with four turnovers. We came into the game with three turnovers (2 interceptions and 1
fumble) this entire season."
After a three-and-out and punt (only one of two for the Hornets) to
start the game, Manchester Essex's defense stepped up with a pick by Ciccone on Georgetown's second play of the game.
Ciccone finished what he started as he took a sweep 44 yards for
a touchdown around the right edge. Senior tackle Clayton Morrissey had a nice sealing block that sprung Ciccone.
sophomore Jaymie Spears blocked the extra point and almost ran it back for two points but Orlando
made the saving tackle.
The Royals shot themselves in the foot again as Esposito
fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Ciccone recovered at the Georgetown 42-yard line.
Four plays later, on third-and-inches, Orlando took it in from 14 yards after sprinting around the left
end. The 2-point conversion failed but Manchester Essex led 12-0.
In what turned out to be the last game
of his spectacular high school career, Esposito wouldn't let his team quit. He ran for 24 yards, completed a 29-yard pass
to Spears and had a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line for a score. Esposito's point-after cut it to 12-7 Hornets.
The teams traded punts and then the Hornets went up by two touchdowns again thanks to Orlando's seven
yard run. Ciccone converted the two-point attempt with a run.
That started a flurry of four straight
touchdowns (two by each team) in the second quarter. Esopsito ran for a 48-yard
score to make it 20-13 Manchester Essex.
Orlando found junior running back Ben Kekeisen (9 carries, 73
yards rushing; 6 catches, 132 yards receiving) with a 27-yard completion. On the next play, Orlando hit a wide open Doug Kenerson
(3 catches, 61 yards) for a 46-yard touchdown.
With five seconds left in the second quarter, Esposito
scored what turned out to be the Royals' last touchdown (a 6-yard run). Manchester Essex led the shootout 26-21 at the
On the first play of the second half, Esposito fumbled after gaining five yards.
Manchester Essex senior linebacker and tri-captain Max Quirk recovered the ball.
moving it down to the Georgetown 11-yard line, Orlando fumbled and Royals senior defensive end Matt Kumph came out of a pile
with the ball.
Neither team though scored in the third quarter but the Hornets put it away with an 11-play,
54-yard drive that was capped off by a 12-yard touchdown catch from Orlando to
The score was made possible by Kekeisen's clutch 16-yard catch and run on fourth-and-nine
from the Georgetown 28.
"We've been trying to do that all year, spread it around," noted
Athanas. "They tried to take Ciccone away on the pass, Ben stepped up with some catches. We made plays when we had to."
Manchester Essex's defense also woke up in the second half
as they shutout Georgetown.
"At the end of the second quarter,
Esposito got away from us but we fixed that in the second half," Kenerson said.
end Garin Sweet recovered the final Royals' turnover (at the Hornets' 7-yard line) which the Hornets quickly turned
into seven more points.
Kekeisen iced the game with a 44-yard run and three plays later, he ran
52 yards for a score when Manchester Essex faced third-and-15.
Hornets' plethora of weapons has been one of the keys to its unbeaten season.
"One of our skills is that everyone who shows up, comes to play," Kekeisen explained. "When
they're looking at who to defend, there's a lot of different guys that are playmakers out on the field. If you stop
one guy, someone else is going to step up."
set to host first game in two years on Thanksgiving By Nick Curcuru
When Manchester Essex High School alum Tom Pallazola looked at the
Hornets upcoming football schedule this summer, the Thanksgiving Day matchup with Georgetown stuck out.
the game has no playoff implications this season, as the Royals moved to the Cape Ann League Small, the game still stuck
out to him. The schedule said the game would be played at Ed Field Field, in Manchester. Now that may not be too noteworthy
at first glance, but given the fact that the Hornets have not played a game in Manchester since Thanksgiving of 2006, it was
a huge deal.
Fast forward to the middle of the season, and it appeared that a game in Manchester was
in serious jeopardy. Ed Field Field did not have the required scoreboard, stands or bathrooms needed to host a football game,
and the matchup was tentatively scheduled to be played at Newell Stadium in Gloucester.
had other plans. Having played football for the Hornets, he remembered how great it was to play in front of a hometown crowd.
Pallazola, with help from several other former Hornets football players, started the Manchester Essex
Gridiron Club. The club, which has over 100 members now, raises money for all Manchester Essex High School sports.
As it turned out, Pallazola and the gridiron club ended up sustaining all of the requirements needed to bring
the game back to Manchester.
club started as a bunch of alumni who wanted to raise some money for the athletic programs," said Pallazola, who is the
president of the club. "It then snow balled to over 100 people, former players, parents and members of the community.
We pretty much wanted to give back to the kids."
Gridiron Club overcame every obstacle that stood in their way. With the help of Dan Mayor, owner of Mayor Tree in Essex, they
were able to take the scoreboard from the old Hyland Field and will be bringing it to Ed Field Field in time for Thanksgiving.
The Manchester Department of Public Works will be putting in stands, and Pallazola was able to work with Manchester Essex
athletic director Hardy Nalley to make the venue official.
"We met all the requirements and persuaded
the administration," Pallazola said. "Now everyone is happy."
Nobody is more happy than
the Manchester Essex football team. For the first time in two years the Hornets will not have to ride a bus to Endicott or
Newell Stadium where they had been playing their home games in 2007 and 2008.
games were home games, but they didn't really feel like it," Hornets tri-captain and quarterback Pat Orlando said.
"We had to gather everything together and get on a bus, it was just like a road game."
Now all the travel the Hornets will need to do is walk
over the footbridge on Lincoln Street, a walk that the players are more
than willing to make.
"It's going to be awesome playing in front of the hometown crowd,"
tri-captain Clayton Morrissey said. "We have been waiting a long time for this and we are going to be fired up."
Orlando admits that a game in Manchester does bring extra motivation to the team.
"We are going to come out flying like it's the biggest game of
the year," Orlando said. "It may not have playoff implications like it did in the past, but we are playing for pride.
We don't want to lose on our home field."
Hornets play sloppy but stay unbeaten By
Nick Curcuru Staff Writer
— Manchester Essex head football coach Mike Athanas admitted that Saturday's non-league game with Lynnfield
was a little sloppy. Athanas felt that the team did not execute their offense and defense as crisp as they normally do.
Sometimes, however, sloppy still gets the job done, as the Hornets improved their record to 10-0 in a 35-21
win over the Pioneers at Lynnfield Middle School.
"It was a little sloppy today but we did what
we were supposed to do and came out with a win," Athanas said. "Lynnfield played a tough football game and we came
out a little flat, but all in all I was happy to come out with a win."
With Lynnfield focusing their
game plan on the Hornets rushing attack and holding them to a season-low 105 yards on the ground, Manchester Essex took to
the air. Quarterback Pat Orlando threw for 249 yards and four touchdowns on the day, 207 of those yards and two touchdowns
went to Doug Kenerson.
"They did a good job taking away the run game," Athanas said. "But
we made some plays in our down field passing game. Doug made some great catches and Pat did a good job getting him the ball.
Plus the line gave him a lot of time in the passing game."
Lynnfield head coach Neal Weidman admitted
that it is tough to completely contain a team that has as many weapons as the Hornets do.
film this week to try to figure out what guys we needed to stop," Weidman said. "And we came up with about six or
seven guys. You can't stop them all."
The Pioneers (2-8) actually gave the Hornets a little
scare in the first half grinding out long sustained drives thanks to the running of sophomore quarterback Gino Cohee (23 carries
Cohee led the Pioneers inside the Hornets 25-yard line on their first drive of the game,
only to see the Hornets stop them on fourth down and eight at the 25-yard line. The Pioneers got no points out of a 14-play
drive that took seven minutes off the clock.
The Hornets put together a long sustained drive of their
own on their first possession driving 75 yards in nine plays. Brian Ciccone capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge to make
it 6-0. Ciccone's score was set up by a 27-yard completion to Kenerson. The junior wide receiver leaped over a Pioneer
defender and hauled in the pass with one hand at the Lynnfield 1-yard line.
The Pioneers looked to be
heading towards the end zone again on their ensuing drive, moving the ball inside the 20-yard line. Lynnfield's drive
would stall again, however, as it fumbled the ball away at the 16. Six plays later Hornets quarterback Pat Orlando hooked
up with Kenerson for a 14-yard score, Ciccone added the point after to make it 13-0 Hornets.
Lynnfield would come back, however, adding a score with 20 seconds left in the half when Cohee hit Nick Roberts
for an 18-yard score to make it 13-7 at the half.
"We moved the ball but we just couldn't finish
our drives," Weidman said of his team's red zone woes, as they scored just once on four trips inside the 20-yard
line. "If you can't finish drives like that you won't win the football game."
put the game away in the second half when Orlando hit Kenerson for a 63-yard score on the first play of the second half. After
getting the ball back inside their own 20 thanks to another Pioneer fumble, a 74-yard completion to Kenerson set up an 8-yard
touchdown catch from Jim Finn to make it 28-7 Hornets after three.
The Pioneers tried to get back into
the game twice cutting the Hornets lead to 14 points, but that was as close as they would get.
was a good win," Athanas said. "We didn't execute how we usually do and we came out flat but that hasn't
been a problem for us this year and it won't be a problem in the future. The kids did their job and won the game."