MANCHESTER -- Austin Prep makes little effort to mask their intentions on offense. It’s obvious from the time the Cougars step on the field that they plan to run the football, early and often.
That makes it even more surprising that when the Cougars faced off with the Manchester Essex football team at Hyland Field in yesterday’s matinee, it wasn’t their running game that broke the Hornets’ backs.
It was quarterback Connor Duffy’s four completions -- all coming in the first half -- that proved to be the difference in Austin Prep’s 32-19 win, as two blown coverages yielded touchdown throws of 22 and 52 yards in the first quarter to get the Cougars off and running.
And while the Hornets did enough to keep the game close, cutting the Austin Prep lead to just seven points with 3:33 left in the game, they ultimately didn’t have enough to get over the top and fell to 1-4 on the season with another incomplete effort.
“Disappointing. Again. We just didn’t play well,” Manchester Essex coach Mike Athanas said. “Their first two scores, we were just playing the wrong defense. One d-back’s playing zone, the others are playing man. It’s a miscommunication and it killed us with those two early touchdowns.
“They throw the ball a little bit, but they don’t want to. They did it just to do it, and then they had some success with it, so they stuck with it a little bit. All because of our mistakes.”
The heart of the Hornets’ problems yesterday -- more than a porous defense and an inconsistent offense -- was field position.
A long punt return by Nicholas Vitale gave the Cougars (2-3) a short field to the end zone. They erased that gap in just two plays when Duffy found tight end John Cronin for an uncontested touchdown.