NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — The Lynn English Bulldogs will be playing football after Thanksgiving, after securing a 24-13 win over No. 25 North Andover Friday.
With the victory, the Bulldogs won the CAL/NEC Division 1 regular season title and clinch a berth in the Division 1A Playoffs. They will face the winner of the Greater Boston League — which No. 1 Everett can wrap up with a win over Malden tomorrow — in a Tuesday night playoff after the holiday.
“These kids did it,” said Lynn English coach Peter Holey. “It’s all about the kids. It’s all about their effort and their commitment to one another. They just took us coaches along for the ride. I’m really happy for them and I’m really happy for our senior class. Going forward this is a big thing.”
The Bulldogs (8-2, 4-0) scored first and never looked back. Midway through the first quarter, their senior quarterback Jermaine Kelly faked a handoff to running back P.J. Dorsey and took off to the right. After a few steps, he cut and reversed course back to the left. He followed his blockers and muscled his way in for the 28-yard touchdown run.
On the ensuing kickoff, with the wind at his back, Chris Lessard hit a booming kick towards Brandon Lash, who had to backpedal to get to it. The ball hit off Lash’s hands and rolled into the end zone. Rather than kneeling on the ball and taking the touchback, Lash decided to run the ball out and was dropped at his own 1-yard line. Two plays later, North Andover quarterback Brandon Walsh was pressured from behind and lost the ball. Lynn English recovered the ball on the 1, and Dorsey punched the ball in for a score one play later.
John Iannone made it a one-score game with a five-yard touchdown run in the second. He was one of the bright spots for the Scarlet Knights (8-2, 3-1), with 28 carries for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
Lessard hit a 27-yard field goal early in the fourth to make it a 10-point game. On the kickoff, he hit the ball short, down to around the 20-yard line. His team was able to recover at the 21, giving the offense a short field. Dorsey punched it in a few plays later, giving his team a 17-point lead, which proved to be too much for the Scarlet Knights.
The result of English’s Thanksgiving Day matchup with Lynn Classical is irrelevant since they now hold the league tie-breaker over North Andover even if the Knights were to beat Masconomet and English lost to Classical. They have the comfort of knowing that ending the season with a loss can’t hurt them.
“Last year we opened the weight room the Monday after Thanksgiving and we had 30 kids there, and that tells you a little something about these kids and their commitment to the game,” said Holey. “They’ve been there all the time, from then until now. We have a core group of kids that love Lynn English football and they love one another. That makes for a good football team.”
Two Walshes under center: Before the game, there was talk that North Andover quarterback Brandon Walsh would not play because of an ankle injury he suffered in the previous game against Peabody. Then he was seen on the field in uniform during pregame warmups, even going so far as to participate in the coin toss. However, on North Andover’s first offensive possession of the game, his brother and the team’s backup, sophomore Casey, came out with the first team. What was thought to originally be a bit of gamesmanship turned into a timeshare at the position.
Throughout the first half, Brandon relieved his brother on third-and-long scenarios and other passing downs. Not only were the players switching in and out, but the elements of the offense were changing as well. When Casey was playing, he was often taking snaps from directly under center in a single-back, run-heavy offense which was a change from the normal spread read-option the Scarlet Knights are known for. When Brandon was playing, he was often in the shotgun, playing out of the spread option.
Brandon came out and played the entire second half with his team down, even though he was noticeably limping.
“It certainly helped us that he was hurting,” said Holey. “I think we would have won the game whether he was completely healthy or not, but I have to be honest, it did help that he was not completely healthy. But this is football, we had injuries too.”
Jermaine Train: Kelly was a force both through the air and on the ground for Lynn English. He was 15-of-23 for 154 yards through the air and added 81 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He was able to spread the ball around evenly to four different receivers. Almost half of those rushing yards came in the second half when his team needed his mobility to help move the chains and keep the clock moving.
“When he’s on, he’s unbelievable,” said Holey. “Jermaine is a great athlete. The kids believe in him now, he believes in himself most importantly, and I think it all came together tonight.
Conversion aversions: The two offenses had difficulty converting fourth downs. In the second quarter, on fourth-and-goal from the North Andover two-yard line, Kelly took the snap and tried to plow his way into the endzone, but the Knights defense stood him up and turned the ball over on downs. This was a crucial possession because if English scored so late in the half, it would have been a two-touchdown game, making a comeback difficult for North Andover, especially with a hobbled Walsh. English stopped North Andover in the third quarter on 4th-and-20. The Knights were in English territory and faced with the situation of being too close to punt but too far to kick a field goal. North Andover was stopped again later in the quarter on the same kind of situation.
LYNN ENGLISH 24, NO. 25 NORTH ANDOVER 13
LE (8-2, 4-0) 14 – 0 – 0 – 10 — 24
NA (8-2, 3-1) 0 – 7 – 0 – 6 — 13
L – Jermaine Kelly 28-yard run (Chris Lessard kick)
L – P.J. Dorsey 1-yard run (Lessard kick)
N – John Iannone 5-yard run (Collin Couillard kick)
L – Lessard 27-yard field goal
L – Dorsey 4-yard run (Lessard kick)
N – Iannone 1-yard run (kick failed)