By Conor Walsh Correspondent
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — It’s essential to any team’s season.
It also may be the hardest thing for a team to do.
But that’s just what the Manchester Essex football team set out to do at practice this week: Move on from a tough loss.
After a 60-7 drubbing at the hands of North Reading last weekend, the Hornets will be looking to put that memory to rest when they take the field against Ipswich tonight at Ipswich High School (7:30).
“It was a tough game and the boys came back and practiced well,” Hornets coach Mike Athanas said yesterday. “Hopefully we’re ready to go.
We’ve moved on. It’s a long season and you can’t dwell on it. It was a tough loss for them, they were upset but they’ve come back and gotten after it.”
While the Hornets (1-7, 0-2 NEC/CAL Tier 4) may have moved past last weekend’s unsightly performance, North Reading pointed out glaring holes in every facet of the Hornets’ game.
Manchester Essex surrendered two special teams touchdowns.
Four of North Reading’s touchdowns came on the first play of a drive. The Hornets’ offense managed just seven points and moved beyond midfield only three times.
On that laundry list of problems, though, Athanas believes that it all begins and ends with his offense.
Led by quarterback Cory Burnham, the Hornets go as their offense goes.
“I just think on the offensive side of the ball we’ve got to execute better,” Athanas said. “The mistakes and the turnovers have hurt us. Defensively we’ve struggled, but that’s just a matter of us tackling better. Better execution on offense will give the defense some attitude.”
So if the Hornets can find an offensive rhythm tonight, that could be all they need to get back on track.
Perhaps most important for the Hornets tonight, though, is a fast start.
On the opening kickoff last weekend, a Hornets’ fumble was returned for a touchdown to set the tone for the blowout loss.
To say the Hornets are looking for a different start tonight would be a gross understatement.
“I’d like to get the ball and score first tomorrow,” Athanas said. “If we can do that and get on top, hopefully our defense can play well and we can get the ball rolling.”
Ipswich presents another stiff test for the Hornets. The Tigers are coming off a 34-point beat down over Georgetown last weekend, and while they sit at just 2-6, two of their losses have been by six points or less.
The Tigers will run a Wing-T offense, an attack that’s given the Hornets problems all season, and will look to mix a bruising running attack with a passing game.
The Hornets, Athanas said, will look to make them one-dimensional. If they can do that, Manchester Essex should have a chance to get back in the win column.
“They’re big up front and they block well,” Athanas said. “Their backs run hard but they can also throw the ball a little bit. It’s a double-edged sword, you want to stop the run but you don’t want to let them beat you through the air.”