EAST BOSTON — The Amesbury football team completed a perfect September for the first time in coach Thom Connors' seven-year career last evening.
With a 44-14 victory over East Boston, the Indians (3-0) provided an exclamation point to an opening month that served as a statement to Cape Ann League Small foes. The Indians, winners of their first CAL Small title in school history last fall, have looked every bit the part of the favorite to repeat.
Senior tailback Kevin Johnston led the way last evening with his third consecutive 100-plus yard effort. Last night was the best of his three games as he had 11 carries for 171 yards and two rushing touchdowns. In addition to touchdown runs of 52 and 58 yards, Johnston added two more 50-plus yard scores on special teams. He returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown, and returned a kick 66 yards for a score.
"Those 50-yard plays aren't by design," Amesbury coach Thom Connors said. "He's a great back. He has good speed, unbelievable balance, and he's stronger than a lot of people give him credit for because of his size (5-10, 195 pounds). You just have to give him the ball, that's all."
Johnston, a returning Daily News All-Star, is a 100-meter Cape Ann League champion in outdoor track. He broke his first touchdown run with his team leading 7-6 midway through the second quarter. On the first play from scrimmage after an East Boston punt, Johnston cut through a hole on the left side of the offensive line and went untouched 52 yards.
Amesbury forced another punt just before halftime after Matt Kilmartin and Kyle Mroz had back-to-back sacks. With his team leading 13-6 and the clock running under 2:00 in the first half, Johnston was looking to give his team solid field position on the punt return. He took the ball off one bounce at his own 38 and hit full stride within his first three steps. By the 50-yard line, he had only the end zone in front of him.
"It's very easy when my teammates block the way they did (last night)," Johnston said. "I just stay behind the blocks and try to outrun the other team."
The Indians attempted two passes in the first half under consistently heavy rainfall. The two passing attempts were completions - one was a two-point conversion from Jared Flannigan to Steve Serwon, and the second occurred in the closing seconds before halftime when Flannigan completed a 38-yard pass to Serwon as time expired. But that completion, which brought Amesbury to the East Boston 10-yard-line, foreshadowed Amesbury's next score, which occurred early in the third quarter. Flannigan was flushed out of the pocket, and rolling to his right, he completed a 27-yard touchdown pass to Serwon to give the Indians a 27-6 advantage.
"We were planning to throw the ball a little more on Wednesday of this week," Connors said. "But once we found out about the rain, we abandoned it and went to a smash-mouth style. We had a few opportunities to throw later in the game."
Jesse Burrell scored his fifth touchdown of the season on the opening drive, which took 7:21 and logged 64 yards. Burrell, Johnston and Flannigan combined to account for all 64 rushing yards on that drive.
"We wanted to set the tone for a ball-control offense early," Connors said. "I was pleased with that drive."
Stanley Greene had East Boston's first touchdown run on a six-yard scamper in the second quarter. That pulled East Boston to within a point, 7-6. Amesbury's Johnston answered with two scores before East Boston scored again late in the third quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Troy Williams to Andrew Swain. That score cut the Amesbury lead to 27-14. Johnston responded with two more touchdowns, and the Amesbury defense also recorded a safety.
"It feels great to be 3-0," Johnston said. "We got off to the right start this year."