2013 Schedule
2013 Roster
2013 Game Reports
2012 Game Reports
2011 Game Reports
2010 Game Reports
2009 Photo Album
2008 Game Reports
2008 Photo Album
Gridiron Club Application
Principal Lee's thank you letter to the Gridiron Club

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hornets close out year with resounding victory

But as the Hornets mulled around Hyland Field after yesterday’s 27-12 win over Georgetown, the memories of a difficult campaign were all forgotten.

Thanksgiving has a way of doing that.

The Hornets put together their most complete performance of the season, riding strong defense and the play of co-captains Cory Burnham and John Beardsley to a resounding victory in the final game in a Hornets’ uniform for a14-member senior class.

”They played well,” coach Mike Athanas said. “As a whole we played well. We made some stops today which we haven’t been able to do consistently and that was nice, and it’s a tough day. Some of these guys aren’t every going to play again, so it’s a tough day for them, but Thanksgiving’s a fun day when you win and it makes it a lot easier when you win the game.”

While the visiting Royals (1-10, 0-5 NEC/CAL Tier 4) forced the Hornets to go three-and-out and got on the board first with a touchdown run by quarterback Jackson Fritz early in the first quarter, it was clear from the start that Manchester Essex was the better team.

The Hornets were crisp offensively, dominating the line of scrimmage and piling up nearly 300 yards of offense. Perhaps more impressive was the Hornets’ defense, which moved on from its season-long struggles to get off the field to hold a young Georgetown squad to just 12 points.

As so often happens in Thanksgiving rivalry games, yesterday’s matchup had its fair share of quirky plays. Two Beardsley touchdowns were negated, one by a penalty and one by a mistaken incomplete call by the officials.

A 60-yard touchdown reception by Georgetown’s Colby Ingraham (157 total yards) was overturned after he stepped out of bounds at the five-yard line, and the Royals were unable to punch in from there.

Another red zone trip for Georgetown was washed away when Beardsley intercepted a Fritz pass in the end zone.

And the Hornets’ highlight of the season — the second of Beardsley’s negated touchdowns — was inadvertently blown dead.

On that play, Burnham dropped back, bounced a lateral pass to running back Chris Dumont, who scooped the ball up and heaved it to Beardsley.

Were the play not called an incomplete pass by the officials — when, in reality, the ball was still live since it wasn’t a forward pass — it would have been a highlight-reel 66-yard touchdown.

Despite the bizarre nature of the game, though, the Hornets (3-8, 2-3 NEC/CAL Tier 4) were able to stay consistent. Behind the play Burnham (203 total yards, three touchdowns), Beardsley (40 receiving yards, touchdown) and Dumont (45 rushing yards, touchdown), the Hornets notched a touchdown in each quarter to cruise to a decisive season-ending win.

”Couldn’t have gone better,” Burnham said. “Everybody did their jobs. We just went all out, that’s what it’s all about. Thanksgiving, we’ll remember this one forever.”

”I liked the way our kids played,” Georgetown coach Paul Sobolewski added. “It’s been a tough year and we’ve had a lot of injuries, but they battled this team. We played a complete game but they were the better team. I give credit to Manchester Essex and Coach Athanas. It’s a good rivalry and we’ll be back for them next year.”

At the end of the day, it was the perfect sendoff for the Hornets’ seniors. The disappointment of the season washed away by a win in the finale, the Hornets were all smiles as they gathered with friends and family in the end zone, together as a team for the final time.

And while they savored their final moments together, there was already a feeling that the Hornets were looking ahead to next season.

”It’s great that we won but it’s also sad,” Beardsley said. “Never going to be on this field with these guys again, so that kind of stinks, but hopefully they can come out next year and do better than we did this year.”

Lynnfield powers its way past ME

MANCHESTER -- The Lynnfield football team arrived at Hyland Field last night with a reputation for dominating the line of scrimmage.

Entering the game at 6-2 and undefeated in NEC/CAL Tier 4 play, the Pioneers have ridden the play of their respective lines to the top of the conference.

That proved the difference last night, as Lynnfield bullied Manchester Essex on both sides of the ball, scoring on its first five possessions to cruise to a 47-13 victory.

“We had trouble blocking them,” Hornets coach Mike Athanas said. “Even on the defensive side of it. They’re good players. They’ve got a lot of push and they absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage.”

Bruising Pioneer running back Kyle McGah got Lynnfield started early. After the Hornets went three-and-out on their first possession, McGah and quarterback Michael Karavetsos led a workmanlike drive, capped off by a one-yard McGah touchdown plunge, to put the Pioneers up 7-0.

After another Hornets (2-8, 1-3 NEC/CAL Tier 4) three-and-out, Lynnfield extended that lead to 14 when Karavetsos hit wide receiver Matthew Kramich for a beautiful 35-yard touchdown just 1:56 later.

But the Hornets stuck around. A long Chris Dumont return on the ensuing kickoff gave the Hornets a short field, and they capitalized when quarterback Cory Burnham hit his favorite target, wide receiver John Beardsley, for a 36-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive.

From there, though, it was all Lynnfield. The Hornets had just one more first down in the first half and couldn’t get off the field defensively, and before you knew it, the Pioneers were going into halftime with a 27-6 lead.

“I would have liked to be able to play with them a little more than we did in the first quarter,” Athanas said. “We did a couple of good things and then just gave up a couple of big plays like we’ve done all year.”

Ultimately, it was the Pioneers’ frontline that proved to be the difference last night. The Hornet’s offense lives and dies by Burnham, and when he had time last night, he was effective, connecting on three passes of more than ten yards.

More often than not, though, he was pressured almost as soon as he touched the ball. Burnham was sacked three times and hurried countless more, and finished the game with -4 rushing yards and just 63 yards through the air.

Were it not for a pretty 33-yard touchdown run by Dumont late in the third quarter, the Hornets would have been kept off the board outside of that one early touchdown by a Lynnfield defense that entered the game giving up just nine points-per-game.

And with a lineup depleted by injury -- five senior starters, including captains Jake Fitzgerald and Julian Flavin were out last night -- the Hornets’ defense simply wore down against Lynnfield’s two-way attack and the Pioneers’ backups added three second half scores to help them rack up a season-high 47 points.

Karavetsos threw for 135 yards and two touchdowns before being replaced at halftime, while McGah paced the ground game with 90 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

The win sets Lynnfield up with a Thanksgiving Day battle with North Reading for the NEC/CAL Tier 4 crown.

Meanwhile, the Hornets now must regroup for a less-meaningful Thanksgiving matchup with winless Georgetown.

Despite the lack of impact, though, it’s still Thanksgiving. And for Athanas, there’s no easier game to bounce back for.

“It’s Thanksgiving,” Athanas said. “You throw everything out. We’ve got Georgetown coming in and we’ve seen them a few times. We’ll get ready, we’ve got a couple of weeks to prepare and we’ll get back at it.”

ME looking to build off victory over Ipswich

The Manchester Essex football team was on the skids when it took the Ipswich High School field last Friday.

Having lost four straight games and opening up NEC/CAL Tier 4 play with consecutive blowout losses, the Hornets weren’t just looking for a win last weekend. They needed one.

And after a back-and-forth game, the Hornets got that win with a last-minute field goal, topping the Tigers, 17-14.

Now that the ship has been righted, though, the Hornets face a fairly unfamiliar task as they look to build off that win.

“It was a big win,” Hornets coach Mike Athanas said. “Good game. The kids played really well and we were lucky enough to hit a field goal with a minute and a half left.

“A win’s always great for the boys. They get a little confidence going, and you’ve just got to go back to work and get ready for Lynnfield.”

With Lynnfield, 6-2 overall and 3-0 in Tier 4 play, coming to Hyland Field tonight (7:00), that’ll be no bargain.

The Pioneers have surrendered just 74 points all season, an average of nine-a-week, and have won their three conference games by an average of more than 25 points.

They’ll look to control the line of scrimmage against the Hornets (2-7, 1-2 NEC/CAL Tier 4), as Lynnfield’s bruising offensive line will overshadow the Hornets’ defenders, and will attack both on the ground and through the air.

For reference, the Pioneers beat Hamilton-Wenham, 24-14, two weeks ago. Three weeks ago, the Hornets fell to the Generals, 43-13.

At this point, it appears that the Thanksgiving game between Lynnfield and North Reading will be the unofficial conference championship.

A long shot for the conference title, though, the Hornets have a chance to play spoiler tonight. But while Lynnfield, on paper, appears the clear favorite, the Hornets may be able to bypass the Pioneers’ dominant front-7 with a passing attack that has improved on a weekly basis this season.

Behind the play of quarterback Cory Burnham and wide receivers John Beardsley, Henry Gedney and Brian McAuliff (among others), Manchester Essex may be able to air it out and leave the game in the hands of the Pioneers’ secondary.

“They really are anchored on the front line,” Athanas said. “They’ve got three big kids on the defensive line that control the line of scrimmage, so it’s tough to run the ball and the linebackers are very good. They’re sound defensively on all three levels.

“You’ve just got to try to find something you can do well and stick to it.”

It’ll be an uphill climb for the Hornets tonight. But they’ve had their backs against the wall before, and with the momentum from last weekend’s win still floating through their locker room, Manchester Essex has an upset on its mind.

North Reading hands ME worst loss in recent memory

MANCHESTER -- With a powerful North Reading squad coming to town, it was clear the Manchester Essex football team would need to be at its best if it hoped to compete.

In a battle of two Hornets squads, though, the host Hornets had nowhere near enough sting when they took Hyland Field last night.

North Reading returned a Manchester Essex fumble for a touchdown on the opening kickoff and never looked back, and by the final whistle, Manchester Essex was left with its worst loss in recent memory.

The 60-7 shellacking leaves Manchester Essex at 0-2 in Tier 4 of the NEC/CAL, and, more importantly, searching for answers to just what happened last night.

“There’s not much to say,” Manchester Essex coach Mike Athanas said. “It’s pretty self-explanatory. We give a game away and we don’t play. They’re going to take advantage of it and they did.”

North Reading put up points in just about every possible way, piling up 60 points despite running just 29 offensive plays and never throwing the ball.

Running back Carl Lipani ran for 186 yards and four touchdowns, also taking an interception 45 yards to paydirt. Evan Wade weaved through the Manchester Essex punt coverage for a Reggie Bush-like 70-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first half. The Manchester Essex fumble gave North Reading a touchdown on its own kickoff to open the game. A botched snap on a punt gave North Reading just 18 yards to go for one of its first-half touchdowns.

Three of North Reading’s nine touchdowns came on returns. Four came on the first play of a possession.

According to Athanas it was the most lopsided affair he has seen during his time at Manchester Essex.

The Hornets (1-7, 0-2 NEC/CAL Tier 4) were unable to find a rhythm in any facet of the game. Their special teams struggled. Their offense managed just 131 yards on the day and a mere 18 total yards in the first half.

And while the Manchester Essex defense held its own early on against North Reading’s vaunted ground game, forcing turnovers on downs on two of North Reading’s first four possessions, it ultimately ran out of steam.

The visiting Hornets scored the final six times they touched the ball, and ran just nine offensive plays in a second half where they tallied 33 points.

“We give them six points on the first play of the game, then we snap it over our heads and give them a short field,” Athanas said. “There’s 14 points we gave them in the first half. That’s tough to come back from.”

The end of the game brought with it some controversy, as North Reading opted to keep many of its starters in the game despite its 33-point lead late in the third quarter.

Lipani ran for a 69-yard touchdown on the first play of a late-third quarter drive, his fifth touchdown of the day, and was subsequently taken out.

“He’s good,” Athanas said. “It’s what we expected of him. We’ve seen him for two years, and he’s a good player. He runs hard and had a great game.”

The next possession, Lipani’s partner in the backfield, Charles MacCarthy, broke through for a 37-yard score on the first play of a drive to put North Reading up, 53-7.

“I know Lupini and McCarthy scored the 47th and 53rd points,” Athanas said, “so take that for what it’s worth.”

When the starters did come out, though, it made little difference, as backup running back Scott McDonough barrelled for a 35-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.

Aside from two late-game kneel-downs, North Reading (6-1, 2-0 NEC/CAL Tier 4) scored on each of its final four offensive plays of the game to move into first place in the division pending the result of today’s game between Hamilton-Wenham and Lynnfield.

The lone bright spot on the day for Manchester Essex was when quarterback Cory Burnham, who had been pressured by North Reading’s front 7 all game, lofted a beautiful 38-yard touchdown pass to fellow co-captain John Beardsley midway through the third quarter.

At that point, though, the game was over, and a season that’s been ugly from the start for Manchester Essex had gotten even worse.

“We’ll take a look at it,” Athanas said, “and see what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to figure something out.”

Hornets get rolled by Lyons, Generals' touted attack

HAMILTON – The game plan for the Manchester Essex football team for Saturday’s conference-opener was simple: stop, or at least contain, Trevor Lyons.

As the Hornets found out Saturday, that’s no easy task.

The reigning Division 3A Player of the Year and senior quarterback for Hamilton-Wenham shredded the Manchester Essex defense from the opening kickoff, piling up 202 total yards and five touchdowns to pace a 43-13 blowout win for the Generals.

“You’ve got to play a mistake-free game against those guys,” Manchester Essex coach Mike Athanas said. “We did some good things, but it’s just a matter of not being able to keep up with it and a couple key mistakes that turned the game around.

“They’re going to score. That kid’s a dynamic player and he makes plays. You just try to contain him.”

That containment plan paid immediate dividends for the Hornets. In an attempt to keep the ball out of Lyons’ hands on the opening kickoff, Manchester Essex opted for a low squib kick.

Cory Burnham’s kick clanged off a member of the Generals’ frontline and the Hornets recovered, and five plays later, Burnham hit Brian McAuliff for a 29-yard touchdown strike to put the Hornets up 7-0 just three minutes into the game.

That was about all the luck the Hornets would get in their attempts to stifle Lyons. The star signal-caller found the end zone on each of the Generals’ first five possessions, dancing through holes and breaking tackles to pile up 157 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

Lyons, who’s among the North Shore’s leaders in passing yards on the year, only dropped back six times. The Generals (4-2) were content keeping the ball on the ground.

And by the time Generals’ coach Andrew Morency pulled his offensive starters at the start of the fourth quarter, it was clear that that strategy worked just fine.

The Generals plowed through a Hornets defense depleted by injuries and piled up nearly 300 rushing yards.

“We’re missing so many guys here,” Athanas said, alluding to the slew of injured players on the Hornets’ sideline Saturday. “We’ve got 12, 13 guys playing, and it’s tough for them, but there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve got to be able to finish games. We have to work on that in practice and try to get in better shape.”

As Manchester’s defense wore down, its offense lost its rhythm. After finishing two of the first three possessions with Burnham touchdown passes, the Hornets were unable to find the end zone for the game’s final 26:50.

Two of those failed possessions stood out in Hornets’ loss. At the end of the first half, Athanas gambled on fourth down at their own 44-yard line.

That gamble failed, as a botched play ended in Burnham being swallowed up by the Generals’ defense, which played fast and physical throughout the game.

It took Lyons just four plays to find the end zone again, the score giving the Generals a 30-13 halftime lead.

“If we could have stopped them there, it wouldn’t have been that bad,” Athanas said. “It’s fourth down and it’s just poor execution on our part. We didn’t make the play. Just a mental breakdown, but we can’t afford those.”

Then, coming out of the half, things only got worse when a sustained drive was cut short one yard short of the end zone by a Hornets’ fumble. After the Generals’ recovered, Hamilton-Wenham marched 99 yards on seven plays to effectively stifle any comeback hopes on the Hornets’ sideline.

“It’s 30-13 at the half, we drive down to the one-yard line and fumble,” Athanas said. “We score there, it’s 30-20, 30-21. Still a game. It’s just us not executing, not having that killer instinct.”

With the loss, the Hornets (1-6) have dug themselves a hole in Tier 4 of the NEC/CAL, while the defending conference champion Generals regain their spot atop the division.

And for a team that had hoped the clean offered by conference play might help right the ship, the first of their five conference games instead bore striking similarities to the Hornets’ early-season struggles.

Northeast pulls away from Hornets in second half

MANCHESTER -- If it were up to the Manchester Essex football team, yesterday’s game would have ended at halftime.

Unfortunately, the Hornets had to come back out of the locker room for the second half.

After surrendering just 70 first half yards and keeping Northeast off the scoreboard before halftime, the wheels fell off for the Hornets in the second half, as the Golden Knights moved the ball at will, piling up 32 points to cruise to a 32-14 victory at Hyland Field.

The loss drops Manchester Essex to 1-5 on the season heading into league play next weekend.

“We just wore down,” Hornets coach Mike Athanas said. “We had a couple of injuries, and they concentrated on running the football and they did a nice job of it. We couldn’t stop them.”

Generally, a phrase like “we couldn’t stop them” is an exaggeration. For the second half of yesterday’s game, though, it was about as accurate as it will ever be.

A terrific defensive first half was soon forgotten, as the Golden Knights (4-2) punched four of their five second-half possessions into the endzone. The lone exception was their final drive, when they were in victory formation.

Behind running back Kenny Bartolo’s 142 yard, two touchdown performance and 244 second-half rushing yards, Northeast effectively broke the Hornets down throughout the second half.

It didn’t help that injuries to Chris Dumont (RB/DB) and Zach Fleming (RB/DL) left Manchester Essex without four two-way starters for the second half, as Jake Fitzgerald and Doug Rodier remain out with lengthy injuries suffered early in the season.

Northeast topped their first-half offensive output with a 71-yard touchdown drive after the opening kickoff in the second half, culminating in an eight-yard touchdown run by running back Kevin Rosado (82 rushing yards).

The Hornets quickly responded, though, regaining the lead with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Cory Burnham -- who had run for the Hornets to Henry Gedney to cap off a five-play, 53-yard drive.

But from there, it was all Northeast. The Golden Knights marched the field on the ensuing drive, and when the Hornets finally had a good shot to hold them -- with a 4th-and-11 from the Manchester Essex 15-yard line -- Northeast quarterback Troy Tartarini found tight end Nick Giangregorio all alone for a touchdown pass.

It was Tartarini’s lone pass attempt after halftime, and it gave the Golden Knights a 16-14 lead -- a lead they wouldn’t surrender.

Northeast followed up that touchdown with a successful onside kick -- their third attempt of the game -- keeping the Manchester Essex defense on the field and stretching their lead to 24-14 early in the fourth quarter.

“The defense was out there a long time,” Athanas said. “Without a doubt, they wore down. ... [The onside kick] was the turning point, without a doubt. We practice the onside kick all week, they do it a lot and they do it well. We just have to get out of the way and the ball goes out of bounds and it’s our ball.”

That didn’t happen, though, and by the time Bartolo gave the Golden Knights their 32-14 lead with a 60-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter, the game had long-since been decided.

While it wasn’t pretty, the Hornets’ first half was likely their best half of football all season.

To the chagrin of Athanas and his team, though, they followed it up with perhaps their worst half of the year.

“They didn’t adjust. They ran the same plays,” Athanas said. “They threw a little bit more in the first half, which was helpful to us. But they really bared down and ran the ball. They ran sweep, they ran iso to the back-side, and we couldn’t stop them. Simple as that.”

Austin Prep attack rolls over Hornets, who fall to 1-4

MANCHESTER -- Austin Prep makes little effort to mask their intentions on offense. It’s obvious from the time the Cougars step on the field that they plan to run the football, early and often.

That makes it even more surprising that when the Cougars faced off with the Manchester Essex football team at Hyland Field in yesterday’s matinee, it wasn’t their running game that broke the Hornets’ backs.

It was quarterback Connor Duffy’s four completions -- all coming in the first half -- that proved to be the difference in Austin Prep’s 32-19 win, as two blown coverages yielded touchdown throws of 22 and 52 yards in the first quarter to get the Cougars off and running.

And while the Hornets did enough to keep the game close, cutting the Austin Prep lead to just seven points with 3:33 left in the game, they ultimately didn’t have enough to get over the top and fell to 1-4 on the season with another incomplete effort.

“Disappointing. Again. We just didn’t play well,” Manchester Essex coach Mike Athanas said. “Their first two scores, we were just playing the wrong defense. One d-back’s playing zone, the others are playing man. It’s a miscommunication and it killed us with those two early touchdowns.

“They throw the ball a little bit, but they don’t want to. They did it just to do it, and then they had some success with it, so they stuck with it a little bit. All because of our mistakes.”

The heart of the Hornets’ problems yesterday -- more than a porous defense and an inconsistent offense -- was field position.

A long punt return by Nicholas Vitale gave the Cougars (2-3) a short field to the end zone. They erased that gap in just two plays when Duffy found tight end John Cronin for an uncontested touchdown.

The Hornets responded with a Chris Dumont touchdown on the ensuing possession, taking a 7-6 lead and, one would think, erasing the Cougars’ early momentum.

But a long kickoff return by Vitale put Austin Prep at midfield, and on the first snap of that possession, Duffy hit tight end Nicholas Mulcahy for a 52-yard touchdown to again capitalize on a short field.

Of Austin Prep’s five touchdown drives, three started inside the Manchester Essex 40 yard line and all but one began within 52 yards of the Hornets’ end zone.

Take a strong offense, add a short field and you get the recipe a double-digit loss, which the Hornets cooked to perfection yesterday.

“You give a team like that a short field, it’s four downs all the time,” said Athanas, alluding to the fact that the Cougars never worried about punting on fourth down. “All phases, we were bad. Special teams, we were bad. We turned the ball over. Just not a crisp game, and we don’t deserve to win games like that.”

Oddly enough, the Hornets were in a position to win the game despite their mistakes. After falling behind, 18-13, late in the second quarter, they forced the Cougars to turn the ball over on downs inside the Manchester Essex 10-yard line to close out the first half down by just five points.

And after Austin Prep received the ball at the start of the second half and marched much of the field, the Hornets came up with another stop, this time at the 18-yard line, and the momentum had officially swung.

That bubble burst, though, when the Hornets’ ensuing drive was cut short by a turnover. As quarterback Cory Burnham (152 passing yards, 51 rushing yards, two touchdowns) lined up in the shotgun for a crucial third down, the snap sailed over his head and was recovered by the Cougars at the Hornets’ 36-yard line.

Six plays later, the Cougars led, 26-13.

“We had some momentum going in at halftime,” Athanas said. “We had just stopped them for the first time, then we stopped them again to open the second half, and that’s what we had talked about at halftime. ‘Make a stop, get the ball back and let’s go down and score.’ Then, we’re moving and we snap the ball over the quarterback’s head. Turned it over. Short field again. Give a team like that another short field, you’re not going to win.”

Even still, the Hornets nearly pulled it out. They responded with a nice drive, culminating in a six-yard touchdown strike from Burnham to Henry Gedney, to cut the Cougars lead to seven points with 3:33 to play.

But a failed onside kick gave the Cougars the ball again, and when Vitale broke off a 13-yard run on a 3rd-and-12 in the game’s final minutes, it was clear the game had slipped away.

The Cougars added an inconsequential touchdown to end that drive and hand the Hornets another loss.

As has often been the case this season for the Hornets, yesterday’s game was there for the taking. But between costly mistakes and allowing the Cougars 342 total yards (234 on the ground), the Hornets were again unable to reach out and grab a win.

“We’ve got to work on everything,” Athanas said. “When we can execute, we do really well. There’s no one little thing that’s going to turn everything around. We execute better offensively and tackle better today? Then it’s probably a different story.”

Hornets pick up first win in dramatic fashion

CHELSEA — It wasn’t pretty.

In fact, it was far from it. But as the Manchester Essex football team walked to its bus after Saturday’s game against Pope John, it had its first win under its belt. And for the Hornets, that’s all that mattered.

They overcame a six-point halftime deficit and a late turnover to notch a game-winning touchdown with 1:43 to play and walk off the Chelsea High School field with a dramatic 21-20 win.

“It was an important win,” Hornets coach Mike Athanas said. “You never want to go 0-3, 0-4, then coming in with another strong team next week. We learned how to win a little bit this week.”

For much of the game, it appeared that the one thing the Hornets (1-3) were missing was just that: the ability to win. After tying the game at 14 with 2:08 to play in the second quarter, Manchester Essex was shredded by the Pope John offense, which marched 53 yards on five plays for a touchdown to regain the lead heading into the locker room.

From there, the game regressed into a sloppy field position battle. The entire third quarter -- and much of the fourth quarter -- was played between the two 30-yard lines, with each team’s respective possessions ending in turnovers on downs.

And when Hornets quarterback Cory Burnham, who had notched the team’s two rushing touchdowns in the first half, went down with an ankle injury in the third quarter, it seemed the game’s final minutes may simply tick off and the Tigers would hold on to their 20-14 lead.

But as Burnham returned late in the third quarter, Manchester Essex started to tip the field position battle toward the Tigers end zone.

When the Tigers finally gave the Hornets the break

they were looking for with a fumble recovered by Hornets’ lineman Mike Davis on the Pope John 23-yard line, Manchester found itself with a short field with just 4:19 to play.

Three plays later, Manchester Essex fumbled the ball right back. With less than three minutes to play, a first down by the Tigers would likely have iced the game.

“Neither team looked like it wanted to win for a while there,” Athanas said.

But the Hornets held, and a poor punt by the Tigers handed the Hornets the ball on the 21-yard line.

The next play, Burnham found wide receiver John Beardsley up the seam for a touchdown that, after Beardsley’s extra point, gave the Hornets their first lead of the game -- and eventually the win -- with just 1:43 to play.

“When I saw [Beardsley], I was just like, ‘Oh, he’s getting the ball,’” Burnham said. “We drew it up before, get the ball to Beardsley, right when he clears, hit him. I told him before, ‘It’s going to you.’ It was huge.”

That late touchdown was nearly wiped away when Pope John wide receiver Khaneil Bruce -- who, at 6-foot-4, had dominated the Hornets’ defense all game -- took a screen pass into the Hornets’ red zone with 1:11 left to play.

But the Hornets’ defense held, forcing two incompletions and a sack on the final series to snatch the game away from the Tigers (0-4).

It was fitting that Bruce was the one to nearly take the game back from the Hornets. The best player on the field from the get-go, Bruce got the Tigers on the board with a 94-yard touchdown run out of the wildcat early in the first quarter, breaking tackles the entire way down the left sideline.

Two Pope John possessions later, Bruce took a screen pass from quarterback Mike Sullivan and ran over would-be Hornets tacklers all the way to the end zone for a 42-yard score.

Bruce finished the game with 111 rushing yards, 106 receiving yards and six gains of 10 yards or more.

When Pope John’s final pass attempt was batted away by Hornets defensive back Chris Dumont, though, Manchester Essex knew it had overcome the efforts of Bruce to finally get in the win column.

“They would run that bubble hitch to [Bruce], and he’s just a great athlete,” Athanas said. “He’s strong. We couldn’t tackle him.”

Saturday, the Hornets found the winning plays that had so-far escaped them this season. After a tough first half, the Hornets’ defense held strong, keeping the Tigers off the scoreboard after halftime and giving the Manchester Essex offense ample opportunity to get the win.

And behind Burnham’s gritty effort on a sprained ankle (134 rushing yards, 135 passing yards, three touchdowns) and Beardsley’s 82 receiving yards and game-winning touchdown grab, the Hornets finally broke through for the clutch finish they’ve been looking for all season.

“It’s awesome,” Burnham said. “What really matters is conference play, and we’ve got two more games after this before conference play, so hopefully we can get some momentum going. This was a big morale booster.”

Area Roundup: Hornets can't overcome Cathedral


Cathedral 26

Manchester Essex 12

The Hornets fall to 0-3 on the year with a disappointing loss to Cathedral Friday in a game that Mike Athanas says they just didn’t play very well.

Manchester Essex took a 6-0 lead early but Cathedral answered back with two more scores to take a 14-12 lead at the half. Cathedral picked up another score early in the third quarter and put the game away with one final score in the game’s final minute.

Saugus Handles Hornets

MANCHESTER -- For a time, it seemed as though all the Manchester Essex football team needed was a little bit of home cooking.

After dropping their season-opener on the road, the Hornets got the best start they could have asked for last night when senior co-captain John Beardsley took the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to give the Hornets an early six-point lead over visiting Saugus.

Unfortunately for Manchester Essex, any home-field advantage began and ended there. The Sachems responded on the following drive to take the lead — a lead they wouldn’t give up.

Saugus posted up 31 unanswered points after Beardsley’s early touchdown and rolled to a 31-12 victory, spoiling the Hornets’ home-opener at Hyland Field and dropping the hosts to 0-2 on the young season.

“It was a great start, we haven’t had (a return touchdown) in a long time,” a dejected Hornets coach Mike Athanas said after the game. “It was nice to get up, but then we just couldn’t stop them. We let them march down the field right after that.”

The Hornets ran into many of the same problems that plagued them in Week 1 last night, much to the chagrin of Athanas. The Hornets’ defense again struggled to contain the run, and that was just fine with Saugus.

Saugus clearly intended to pound the ball on the run, and did so on all but one play (an incomplete pass). There was no need for a passing game, though. Paced by quarterback C.J. Rudolph’s 66 rushing yards and three touchdowns, the Sachems piled up an even 300 rushing yards to cruise to an easy victory and improve to 1-1.

Four Sachems -- Rudolph, fullback Nick Benoit, fullback Ismeal Minaya and backup quarterback Justin Winn -- piled up 50 or more yards on the ground, as Saugus’ Wing-T offense sliced through the Hornets’ defense, combining the downhill power of Benoit and Minaya with big-hitters to the outside.

And, reminiscent to last Friday’s loss to Amesbury, it seemed as though there was nothing the Hornets could do to stop it.

“We didn’t read out keys well enough. No discipline,” Athanas said. “That’s the ultimate assignment football, and we just weren’t disciplined enough. Each guy has to key a man, and we just weren’t able to do that. A team and an offense like that is going to burn you every time if you lose your discipline.”

It didn’t help that Athanas was without two key members of his defense in middle linebacker Doug Rodier and defensive back Jake Fitzgerald, who both missed the game with injury.

Their absences were also felt on the offensive side, as the Hornets were without their starting center and running back, respectively. But there was much more to the team’s inability to sustain much offensive presence.

For the second straight week, the culprits were

drops and penalties. Quarterback Cory Burnham (64 passing yards, TD, 32 rushing yards) dropped back to pass 18 times, but the Hornets only completed one-third of those passes.

That completion percentage easily could have doubled, as time after time catchable passes slid threw the hands of Burnham’s receiver and to the turf -- or even worse, into the hands of a Sachem, as happened late in the first quarter when Saugus defensive back David Cacciolo snagged a deflected ball to set the Sachems up deep in Hornets’ territory to set up a touchdown that put them up 17-6.

Couple those drops with three crucial first half offensive penalties, and you have the Hornets’ recipe for yet another disappointing performance to start their season.

“The mistakes killed us,” Athanas said. “It’s really frustrating on offense when we don’t execute. I didn’t know what to expect (from Saugus), but I do know that the drops killed us.”

One of the lone bright spots on the day for the Hornets was junior running back Chris Dumont, who ran for 131 yards and led the Hornets with three catches -- one for a touchdown -- as he seamlessly filled in for the injured Fitzgerald.

“He plays hard,” Athanas said. “Comes to play every time we step foot on the field.”

Last night, the Hornets could’ve used more efforts like that of Dumont’s.

They didn’t get them, though, and it’s back to the drawing board this week as they look to get back on track against Cathedral next Friday night.

“Just not a good effort from us,” Athanas said.

That about sums it up.

Amesbury trounces Hornets on opening night

AMESBURY -- Amesbury football coach Thom Connors had a short list of wishes for his birthday yesterday.

Luckily for him, he received the top item on that list last night when his Indians marched their way to a 28-7 win over Manchester Essex at Landry Stadium to open their season in decisive fashion last night.

With a slew of options at his disposal, Connors unveiled his team’s new Wing-T offense in impressive fashion. The Indians (1-0) jumped out to a 21-0 first half lead and never looked back.

“A win’s a win, doesn’t matter what day it is, birthday or not,” Connors said with a laugh after the game. “We had a pretty good first half, and overall it’s a good win. They’re a pretty good football team.”

It seemed Manchester Essex (0-1) was given a gift early in the first quarter. After Amesbury broke deep into Hornet territory with a 42-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage, Manchester Essex was able to buckle down and force a turnover on downs.

Any momentum from that stop was soon lost, though, when consecutive false starts left the Hornets with a long-yardage situation. It only got worse when a completed pass across the middle was washed out by Amesbury linebacker Mac Short’s highlight-reel hit, which forced a fumble that again left the Hornets pinned deep in their own territory.

“It’s only one drive, but to stop them in our territory and then come back and complete a pass and then fumble, it’s mistakes you can’t have to win football games,” Hornets coach Mike Athanas said. “Turnovers in your own field will kill you every time.”

That proved true.

The Indians took over at the Manchester Essex 30 yard line after that turnover and didn’t look back for the rest of the first half. Running back Perry Mroz quickly turned that recovered fumble into six points, and after another failed Hornets’ drive, Amesbury quarterback Matt Talbot found Devlin Gobeil in the end zone to push the lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter.

Running back Tommy Connors’ three-yard touchdown plunge late in the half gave Amesbury its commanding halftime lead. Meanwhile, the Hornets struggled offensively throughout the game – but particularly in the first half, when they managed just 49 yards and never advanced past the Indians’ 49 yard line.

At the forefront of the Indians’ impressive offensive performance – which was capped off with another touchdown connection between Talbot and Gobeil in the fourth quarter – was its new Wing-T offense, which operated out of the shotgun.

With constant motion, good balance between the run and the pass and a veteran backfield, the Indians were able to keep Manchester Essex off-balance for much of the game. On top of that, the rangy Gobeil proved to be a matchup nightmare for the Hornets, hauling in four passes – two for touchdowns – and drawing two pass interference penalties in the end zone.

“I like the offense because it gives you a bunch of options,” Connors said. “It puts four guys as possible threats in the backfield including the quarterback and then you have your spread receivers. It gives you six immediate threats, and it’s fun.”

“He’s a big kid. A couple times we were beat, but a couple times we were there,” Athanas said of Gobeil. “He’s just too tall, good hands, and he goes up and gets it.”

The Hornets didn’t enjoy such success with their offensive attack, which relied heavily on quarterback Cory Burnham. Burnham found himself in the shotgun with an empty backfield for much of the game, and a combination of penalties, drops and constant pressure from the Indians’ defense left Athanas looking for answers. And while the Hornets were able to avoid the shutout when a late drive ended in a Burnham touchdown, it was of little solace.

Ultimately, Manchester Essex just didn’t do enough to hang with the Indians. An overall strong effort from the defense was overshadowed by an inability to get off the field, as the Indians converted five first downs after being faced with third down and seven or more yards.

Meanwhile, the experienced offensive attack Athanas had hoped to lean on never found a rhythm after an unsightly first drive, and the Hornets got on the bus home with a sour taste in their mouths.

“You put yourself in a hole against a good football team and it’s going to snowball,” Athanas said. “Too many mistakes to beat a football team like Amesbury.”

2012 Hornet Football Schedule

Friday, September 7, at Amesbury (7:00 p.m.)

Friday, September 14, vs. Saugus (7:00 p.m.)

Friday, September 21, at Cathedral (7:00 p.m.)

Saturday, September 29, at Pope John (Time TBA)

Friday, October 5, vs. Austin Prep (5:00 p.m.)

Friday, October 12, vs. Northeast (7:00 p.m.)

Saturday, October 20, at Hamilton-Wenham (2:00 p.m.)

Friday, October 26, vs. North Reading (7:00 p.m.)

Friday, November 2, at Ipswich (7:00 p.m.)

Friday, November 9, vs. Lynnfield (7:00 p.m.)

Thursday, November 22, vs. Georgetown (10:00 a.m.)

ME Gridiron Club 

Powered by