(Lynn MA) North Reading has been averaging nearly forty points per game.
When they only had six points at halftime versus Pentucket tonight at Manning Field, you had to suspect that a scoring storm was coming.
And it did.
The Hornets (10-1) big second half gave them a, 31-14, win over Pentucket. It also gave North Reading (#1 seed) a berth in the Division 5 Super Bowl against Swampscott (#2 seed) at Gillette Stadium in December.
“I’m so happy to get a chance to play at Gillette,” said NR quarterback Alex Carucci afterwards.
Alex ran for one score and passed for another.
The Hornets had scored four times this season on their very first play from scrimmage.
Didn’t happen tonight. However, the first time North Reading had the ball in the second half came on a punt return.
Ryan McCullough went seventy-eight yards with that return to give the Hornets the lead for good.
“I was just trying to take it to the house,” recalled Ryan. “I thank my punt-return teammates. There was a wall there.”
Pentucket (#4 seed) was still in this one early in the fourth quarter (17-14) after Chase Dwight’s second short-yardage touchdown.
The Sachems (8-3) were able to get the ball back with a chance to pull ahead.
Credit the NR defense. They forced another punt.
Ryan McCullough was again on the punt receiving end and again had good blocking.
“I nearly had a second touchdown but #11 (Paul Parachojuk) caught me,” said Ryan.
Ryan’s 42-yard return set up the Hornets at the Pentucket five.
From there, quarterback Alex Carucci rolled left looking to pass. Nothing there, so he crossed the field to the right side and connected with Matt Guidebeck for the score.
“It was a broken play,” said Alex. “I just tried to make something happen. Fortunately, my receivers got open for me.”
“I was in the slot on the right,” recalled Matt Guidebeck. “It was a scramble and we had worked all this week on what to do. I moved around until a found a spot to stay.”
“Alex (Carucci) is a smart player,” said NR coach Ed Blum. “When he’s had to scramble, he’s been able to make some plays.”
Matt Guidebeck’s touchdown reception and his kicking conversion put North Reading ahead, 24-14, with five minutes left in the game.
Craig Rubino’s interception ended Pentucket’s next possession and North Reading was home free.
Two second-half interceptions (Ryan McGuire & Craig Rubino) and Ryan McCullough’s two punt returns were keys to the win.
“A couple of big plays really swung it in the second half,” said Pentucket coach Dan Leary. “North Reading makes you play all three phases of the game and defend the field.”
Not to be lost among all the “highlight” plays was the rushing of sophomore Will Batten (26 carries – 158 yards).
“Will put up some big numbers in the weight room last year,” said Coach Blum. “He’s been huge for us in this run.”
Will scored his 20th touchdown in the fourth quarter.
North Reading scored first. Pentucket got a heavy dose of Will Batten right down to their two-yard line. A fake to Will by QB Alex Carucci allowed Alex to score unnoticed.
“Will is a great player and they were keying on him,” said Alex afterwards. “I think they had eleven guys on him and no one on me.”
Pentucket answered with a touchdown greatly aided by a pass interference call. Chase Dwight, who spent most of the game either passing or running, plunged across from a yard away. Henry Hartford’s kick put Pentucket in front, 7-6.
The Sachems held that lead at halftime, but things changed in the second half.
“I told the team at halftime that they had to believe in everything they had done,” said Coach Blum. “We knew that we would face some adversity.”
Coach Leary: “I was proud of our effort.”
Ryan McCullough: “It is an amazing feeling to finally get this done. #4 (Chase Dwight) is a big, strong runner with a huge arm.”
Alex Carucci: “We were a little bit sloppy tonight. I know that we can play a lot better.”
Coach Blum: “Ryan (McCullough) trusted the blockers and made some good cuts on those punt returns.”
Pentucket lost to North Reading eight weeks ago (September 24th), 20-0.
Both North Reading and Pentucket lost to Amesbury this season.
Che Condon had four catches for 111 yards.
Matt Guidebeck kicked a 26-yard field goal in the third quarter.
The Hornets have now won five straight.
North Reading 0 6 11 14 – 31
Pentucket 0 7 0 7 – 14
(All the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)