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Lawrence Acad. 28, BB&N 26

Spartans’ defense delivers

By Brendan Hall
Globe Correspondent / November 14, 2009

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CAMBRIDGE - Lawrence Academy coach Mike Taylor said he’d rather have his defense on the field to win the game. The thousands lining Russell Field last night found out why.

The Spartans completed their dominant run through the Independent School League by holding off a late rally by defending ISL champ Buckingham, Browne & Nichols to win, 28-26, and capture the league crown.

“Everybody’s banged up, everybody’s hurt, but we came through when we needed,’’ said defensive back Denzel Brito, who was a force on both sides of the ball (93 rushing yards and a touchdown). “To stop that team, that’s incredible. We put so much work in.’’

The Spartans (8-0) now await seedings for next weekend’s bowl games.

The Knights (7-1) scored twice in the final five minutes to cut the Spartans’ lead to 28-26, and took over at the Lawrence 37 with 1:50 to go and no timeouts. A 7-yard run by Derek Papagianopoulos on third and 1 was called back for a holding call. Two plays later, on fourth and 9, quarterback Eric Bertino threw a dart over the middle to Jimmy McCaffrey (150 all-purpose yards), who fell a yard short of the first-down marker.

After Mike Orloff kneeled to end the game, BB&N coach John Papas - visibly livid - stormed out to midfield to have words with the officials about the holding call. After the postgame handshake, the team made a quick exit from the field, and the locker room.

Reached after the game by cellphone, Papas was still angry about the call. He said he watched tape of the play, and his player had made a clean block.

“In my 32 years of coaching, I have never complained about a call publicly, but I will now. It was a disgrace,’’ Papas said. “You can quote me on that, it was a disgrace . . . I am going to go to the league commissioner about it. I take nothing away from Lawrence Academy, they’re a fine team. We just wanted a chance at the end to win it.’’

Playing without running back Anthony Knight (“He was ineligible for medical reasons,’’ Taylor said), the Spartans utilized their speed with a series of sweeps, and took a 19-13 lead at the half with a 51-yard run by Brito and a 24-yard scamper from Marcus Grant (two touchdowns) for the go-ahead score.

A safety and a 30-yard interception return by Dan Giovacchini pushed the lead to 28-13, before the Knights closed the gap behind 4- and 1-yard touchdown runs from Papagianopoulos.