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Hamilton-Wenham bests Manchester Essex in defensive struggle

HAMILTON-- For the most part, Manchester Essex head football coach Mike Athanas was pleased with what he saw from his team Saturday at Hamilton-Wenham in a Cape Ann League Small clash.

The Hornets once again played very tough defense, they moved the ball at times and matched the Generals’ physicality on both sides of the football. There was just one element missing; big plays. In a defensive struggle, big plays turned out to be the difference; Hamilton-Wenham made one, Manchester Essex made none in a 14-6 Generals win. Both teams now have identical 2-3 records.

“We moved the ball and I thought the defense played good again,” Athanas said. “We just need to make a big play once in a while and we didn’t do that. Give Hamilton-Wenham credit, they have a good defense too and made a few nice stops. We just didn’t make enough plays today.”

Defenses may have reigned supreme on Saturday, but early on in the contest it appeared that the two teams were in for a shootout.

On the Generals’ first drive of the game, running back Ian Dickey (111 yards) drove them down the field finishing off a 10 play, 60 yard drive with a one yard plunge to make it 7-0.

Later in the first quarter the Hornets answered back on a 56 yard touchdown run from senior captain Chris Dumont to cut the lead to 7-6.

Then the defenses took over. Both the Generals and Hornets had little room to operate

“After the first drive the defenses really settled in and played well,” Athanas said. “It was a physical game, both teams tackled well and got off blocks, they just made fewer mistakes and executed on a couple more plays.”

The Hornets had a couple decent chances to get on the board again in the first half but the Generals defense halted a pair of drives around their 30 yard line to take a 7-6 lead into the break.

In the second half, the defenses picked up right where they left off and punts were at a premium. It was Hamilton-Wenham that finally found the end zone again early in the fourth quarter when Dickey found a rare seem in the Hornets defense, turning it into a 34 yard touchdown run and a 14-6 Generals lead.

The Hamilton-Wenham defense took over from there forcing three turnovers and a turnover on downs in Manchester Essex’s final four drives to pick up the win.

“We need to do a better job execution wise and we have to do a little better with our mistakes,” Athanas said. “The effort was there, we played hard, we did some good things but we didn’t do enough.”

At 2-3, Saturday’s loss hurts Manchester Essex. With two games to play against Ipswich on Friday and Amesbury the following week, the Hornets will most likely have to win out to qualify for the Division 5 North playoffs.

“We have to win the next two,” Athanas said. “If we win out, I think we have a good shot at a wild card spot. We have Ipswich next and we will get back to practice this week and focus on beating them.”

LYNNFIELD- The Manchester Essex football team did not have much room for error Saturday on the road against an unbeaten Lynnfield team that has aspirations of a return trip to the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately the Hornets did not turn in one of their better efforts of the season and the result was a 42-0 shellacking at the hands of the Cape Ann League Small leaders. Manchester Essex falls to 2-2 with the loss, Lynnfield improves to 4-0.

"(Lynnfield) is a good football team and they're going to do very well going forward," Athanas said. "I don't think the effort was there today and I don't like that. If we're going to get beat we get beat but we need to play and I don't think we played our hardest today."

It was all Pioneers from the get-go as their starters set the tone early and only needed to play 22 minutes. At the break Lynnfield had a 35-0 lead while out-gaining the Hornets 248-37 scoring on four of its six drives adding a defensive touchdown as well. The Manchester Essex offense was held to just a pair of first downs, one aided by a pass interference penalty.

The Lynnfield defense started by forcing a three-and-out and the offense kept the momentum going with a seven play 55 yard driving culminating with a Kyle McGah nine yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.

The Hornets defense looked to be getting something going forcing a punt on Lynnfield's next possession going into the second quarter trailing just 7-0. But the Pioneers would open the floodgates in the second frame.

A 33 yard run from Adam Buchanan on the Pioneers next drive set up an 11 yard McGah touchdown run to make it 14-0.

After forcing another three-and-out on defense split end Matt Kramich hooked up with Jonathan Knee on a sweep pass for a 55 yard score and a 21-0 lead.

A Jake Rourke 10 yard interception return and a 57 yard catch and 66 yard touchdown reception from Knee on a bubble screen capped the first half scoring at 35-0. The damage was done, the game was put out of reach and the second and third teams handled the second half.

According to Athanas the Hornets woes on Saturday started during the week at practice.

"We didn't have a good week of practice and it showed in the way we played today," he said.

The bad news for Manchester Essex is that it falls to 1-1 in the Cape Ann League Large, a game behind the 2-0 Pioneers. But the good news is the loss does not cripple the Hornets postseason chances the way it would have in years past.

Athanas and the Hornets will now put Saturday's game behind them on focus on the three remaining Cape Ann League Small games as a wild card berth in the playoffs is still well within reach. The important three game stretch begins on Saturday when the Hornets travel to 1-3 Hamilton-Wenham, which is also 1-1 in CAL Small play.

"It's a completely different system now so we are still in it," Athanas said. "We have three big games coming up in our league against three good teams, if we win those games we're in good shape. We will put this loss behind us, talk about it now and get to practice to work on Hamilton-Wenham. We need to have a short memory."

Hornets down Georgetown 28-12

The Manchester Essex football team hosted its Thanksgiving day rival Georgetown two months early on Friday night at Hyland Field.

The game still carried a big game feel with two rivals squaring off and it was the Hornets who took care of business with a 28-12 win. The win, the team’s second straight, moves Manchester Essex to 2-1 on the year while Georgetown falls to 0-3.

The teams will meet again on Thanksgiving morning, with that matchup being played in Georgetown.

“We played a pretty good football game,” Hornets head coach Mike Athanas said. “We were a little sloppy, there’s some things we will need to fix but we did some good things too and made some plays to get the win. We are always happy with a win over Georgetown.”

The Hornets got on the scoreboard early on an eight yard run from senior captain Chris Dumont. John Bruce would haul in the conversion on a pass from Craig Carter to make it 8-0.

Georgetown would respond on a 55 yard run from Colby Ingraham to make it 8-6. But that’s as close as the Royals would get as the Hornets defense and running game took over from there.

Senior captain Nate Riehl made it 14-6 Manchester Essex just before the half when he scored on a 30 yard run.

Carter added an insurance touchdown in the third quarter on a four yard run and Sophomore Chris Carr put the game away with a 32 yard fourth quarter scamper to make it 28-6.

Georgetown’s Cooper Martin scored a five yard run late in the fourth to make it 28-12, but it was too late as the Hornets were well on their way to a victory.

Athanas was quick to credit his team’s rushing attack as Dumont and Riehl each had big nights behind an offensive line that was opening up big holes all game.

“We really ran the ball and blocked well on offense,” Athanas said. “We kept them off balance with a few nice pass plays but it was the run game that did it for us tonight. The defense really settled in and played a good game after the first touchdown too. It was a solid team effort tonight. We did what we needed to do.”

At 1-0 in the Cape Ann League, Manchester Essex hits the road next Saturday at Lynnfield (1 p.m.).

Dominant defense carries Hornets to first win

ANDOVER-- The Greater Lawrence football team switched its offensive scheme from a run-heavy attack to the spread offense this season.

The new offensive system, however, played right into the hands of Manchester Essex as Mike Athanas’ squad also runs the spread offense and it knows the system inside and out.

On Saturday at the Louis E. Gleason Coluseum, the Hornets defense knew exactly how to attack the spread turning in a dominant performance en route to a 22-12 win, their first win of the season.

“We played great defense,” Athanas said. “They’re a spread team and we really know the spread and really worked hard against it this week in practice. I was nervous of their athletes in space but we played man-to-man, got good pressure on the quarterback and did a great job. It was a dominant day by the defense.”

Dominant is the perfect word to describe Manchester Essex’s performance on the defensive side of the ball Saturday. While the offense left a few plays on the field and kept the Reggies in the contest, the defense made sure they would not get anything going on offense allowing just 70 yards on the day.

Middle linebacker Doug Rodier led the way making tackles all over the field, but he was not alone. Nate Riehl had a big interception thwarting a Greater Lawrence drive while Leo Gallo, Ted Economo and Will Davis all had quarterback sacks in the win.

“Dougie is a force in the middle, if he doesn’t get blocked he will make the play every time and he made a lot of tackles for losses today,” Athanas said. “The line and the secondary also came up big.”

The Hornets (1-1) got things going right away mounting an impressive opening drive going 75 yards in seven plays, culminating with a Riehl five yard touchdown run to make it 6-0.

Manchester Essex smothered the Reggies offense for the remainder of the half holding them to just 13 yards over the first 20 minutes of play. But the offense couldn’t add to the lead despite the fact that it started the next four drives in Greater Lawrence territory.

Untimely penalties, a fumble and a turnover on downs kept the score at 6-0 at the half with Manchester Essex holding a 173-13 lead in total offense.

The lack of offensive execution came back to haunt the Hornets as Isaiah Roman took the second half kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown and all of a sudden the score was tied at 6-6, rendering the Hornets dominant first half defensive performance moot.

“Offensively we got the ball on their side of the field a lot and after that first drive we kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Athanas said. “If we don’t hurt ourselves in those drives, we score.”

The Manchester Essex offense, however, stepped up its game in the second half behind a solid running game from Chris Dumont (game high 70 yards rushing), Riehl, Chris Carr and quarterback Craig Carter.

After the Reggies tied the score, the Hornets answered right back with a 10 play, 57 yard drive ending with a Carter one yard quarterback sneak. Carter would hit Dumont for the conversion to make it 14-6 Manchester Essex.

But Greater Lawrence would not go away mounting its only successful offensive drive on its next possession culminating with quarterback Ellicen Pena hooking up with Jeremy Torres for a 19 yard touchdown on fourth and 14. The Hornets defense would once again come up big on the conversion, stopping a pass attempt and holding on to a 14-12 lead.

Carter and the offense went right back to work on the next drive as the offensive line began to wear down the Reggies. Carter picked up his second one yard sneak in as many drives with 3:45 to play, a Dumont conversion made it 22-12, a lead that the Hornets would not relinquish.

“In the first half we made a couple mistakes on offense but in the second half we made some big plays when we needed them,” Dumont said. “Our offensive line may not be the biggest but they’re all really tough guys and they’re all in great shape. We just fed off of the momentum the defense gave us.”

The Hornets defense had one more stop left in them, turning the ball over on downs in just four plays and the offense, led by the running of Dumont, ran the clock out for the win.

The win was key for Manchester Essex as it picks up a win in the division and earned 10 points towards the Division 5 North playoffs. The Hornets now turn their attention to rival Georgetown, who visits Hyland Field on Friday (7:00 p.m.) in the Cape Ann League Small opener for both teams.

“That was a huge win in the division,” Athanas said. “It’s not like in years past where the non-league games don’t mean too much, they’re all big games now. I really liked how the offense responded in the second half. We picked up the blitz better and Dumont started running with authority, running kids over. The CAL schedule starts on Friday and it’s another huge one against Georgetown.”

Football: Hornets fall to Northeast in season opener

The Manchester Essex football team’s season opener Friday against Northeast was a tale of two halves.

In the first half the Hornets executed well on both sides of the ball against the always tough Golden Knights taking a 16-6 lead into the break. But in the second half, Northeast took advantage of a few Hornets miscues and executed themselves scoring 36 points over the final 22 minutes en route to a 42-28 win in Wakefield.

Although the Hornets lost to a fellow Division 5 North opponent, head coach Mike Athanas was still happy with the fight he saw from his team against a strong Northeast squad.

“I was pretty happy with the way we played,” Athanas said. “We really executed in the first half, I thought we played really hard too. We just made a few mistakes, a couple turnovers, a couple breakdowns on defense that led to scores. There’s definitely stuff we’ll need to improve on but the effort was definitely there for the whole game. We will get back to work (today) to fix some things.”

The Hornets (0-1) controlled the first half taking a 16-0 lead late into the first half on touchdown runs from junior quarterback Craig Carter and senior captain Nate Riehl.

But after a shanked punt gave the Golden Knights good field position just outside the Hornets 20, the home team was able to punch in a score cutting the Hornets lead in half at the break.

Things got worse for Manchester Essex to begin the second half as the Knights scored on a long pass early in the quarter to tie the game. Manchester Essex would then fumble the ensuing kickoff, which led to another Northeast score.

The Hornets however, fought back with Carter hooking up with Liam Logue for a 37 yard strike to tie the score at 22-22 in the third. But it was all Golden Knights from there scoring three more times while wearing Manchester Essex down with its power running attack. The Hornets got just one more score in the game, an eight yard run from senior captain Chris Dumont.

Athanas praised the play of his two senior captains along with Carter. He was also quick to credit the play of Doug Rodier and Brett Williams on the defensive end.

“They’re a tough team and they executed in the second half,” Athanas said. “They wore us down a little bit but they really took advantage of our miscues.”

The Hornets have a bye in Week 2 but are right back at it on Saturday, September 21 at Greater Lawrence (1:00 p.m.), another Division 5 North opponent.

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