By Nick Curcuru
---- — The Manchester Essex football team came into yesterday’s Thanksgiving Day clash against rival Georgetown with laser focus on the goal at hand: picking up a sixth win and clinching the program’s first winning season since 2009.
Led by senior captain Chris Dumont’s five touchdowns, the Hornets put on an offensive clinic on the road, picking up a 38-25 win over the Royals at Georgetown High School.
With the win, Manchester Essex completed its goal of a winning season in impressive fashion.
“It’s a nice accomplishment for these kids and they did it playing a good game today,” Hornets head coach Mike Athanas said. “It’s Thanksgiving, both teams came to play, but we did a good job on both offense and defense today. It was a nice way to end a good season.”
The Hornets (6-5) made it a point to establish an efficient running game early, riding senior captains Dumont and Nate Riehl down the field on the opening drive, which culminated with a Dumont touchdown to make it 6-0 Hornets.
Georgetown, however, came back on the ensuing drive, taking advantage of a slip by a Hornets defensive back, which led to a long touchdown pass and a 7-6 Royals lead.
But Dumont and Riehl picked up right back where they left off on the Hornets ensuing drive, once again marching the team down the field for another Dumont score and a 14-7 lead.
Dumont would add a third score late in the first half to make it 22-7, but Georgetown would once again answer back with a touchdown of their own to cut the lead to 22-13. The Royals looked to have some momentum heading into the half, but Manchester Essex took it right back when Dumont intercepted the two-point try and took it back the other way to give his team two points and a 24-13 halftime lead.
In the second half, the victors picked up right where they left off, turning to their two-headed monster in the backfield to chew up yards and clock. Dumont added two more scores in the final 22 minutes and the Hornets came away with a 38-25 win.
“We did a really nice job running the ball and controlling the clock,” Athanas said. “Chris and Nate ran tough and the line did a great job blocking the whole game. It was a nice team effort.”
The Hornets defense also had a strong showing as Athanas was quick to praise the play of Doug Rodier, Mike Davis, Will Davis, John Bruce and Riehl on that side of the ball. Aside from the Royals long touchdown pass and a score on a short field after a fumble, there wasn’t much room to work with against the Manchester Essex defense, which has been a huge strength for the team this season.
Athanas was also quick to praise his nine seniors, who were instrumental in the team’s success this season, which included a second-place finish in the Cape Ann League Small, no easy task for a school the size of Manchester Essex, and a run to the Division 5 North semifinals.
“I’ll tell you, this was a great bunch of kids,” Athanas said. “I didn’t really expect this from this group of guys. We graduated a lot of good players from last year’s team and we had a bit of a slow start out of the gates. But the kids came to practice every day, put in the hard work and got better with every game. That’s the sign of a good team, one that improves as the season goes along.”