Following a gritty 15-6 triumph over Whittier on Saturday, the Manchester Essex football team finds themselves in a position that seemed improbable following a 1-5 start to the season. They are now firmly in the mix for the Commonwealth Large title and a matchup with major postseason implications looms on the horizon.
As it stands, Shawsheen holds its destiny in its own hands as it has its sights set on a league title and a playoff berth. But lurking in the shadows is a young Hornets squad looking to throw a major wrench into the way the league’s final standings are shaped, and Saturday’s victory could go a long way in determining just that.
"We told our kids all week that we believed in them,” stated Manchester Essex head coach Mike Athanas. “If they played the way they are capable of playing, this was a game for the taking. Just a great win for our team."
Second half touchdowns by Alex Carr and Calvin Cooke helped to propel the Hornets to the much needed victory and in turn kept their playoff hopes alive with two games remaining on the schedule.
A tough non-conference schedule put Manchester Essex behind the eight ball early on. The loss of 18 seniors from a squad that barely lost out on a league title last season and won the Division IV Super Bowl the year before that, certainly didn’t help their cause.
Yet the young nucleus gutted things out and never got down despite the losses. The team kept plugging along, playing hard each week and their efforts put them in the prodigious position they now find themselves in.
Saturday’s victory pushed the Hornets to 3-1 in league play and sets the table for a monster Friday night clash with the first place Rams (7-1, 3-0). That game should determine how the league shakes out or it could simply help to make things more confusing.
Greater Lawrence could also factor into things before it’s all said-and-done despite losing to Shawsheen on Saturday. If the Hornets can pull off the upset against the Rams on Friday, then a win on Thanksgiving versus Whittier could put the Reggies back in the mix and create a log jam on top of the standings.
The bad news is that if the above scenario plays out, then this could all come down to a tiebreaker, of which no one is quite sure of, especially after seeing so many different scenarios and rules play out amongst leagues in similar spots last season.
Of course if Shawsheen wins on Friday they will clinch the Commonwealth Large title, making the whole argument null-and-void.
The good news is that it all has to first play out on the gridiron in Manchester this Friday night at 7:00pm.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our winter correspondents:
- Emily McCarthy | @EmilyMcCahthy | BPS correspondent
- Jake Fischer | @GlobeFischer | Boys basketball
- Michelle Fenelon | @michfenelon | Girls basketball
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Boys hockey
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls hockey
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail email@example.com.