The Manchester Essex football team was on the skids when it took the Ipswich High School field last Friday.
Having lost four straight games and opening up NEC/CAL Tier 4 play with consecutive blowout losses, the Hornets weren’t just looking for a win last weekend. They needed one.
And after a back-and-forth game, the Hornets got that win with a last-minute field goal, topping the Tigers, 17-14.
Now that the ship has been righted, though, the Hornets face a fairly unfamiliar task as they look to build off that win.
“It was a big win,” Hornets coach Mike Athanas said. “Good game. The kids played really well and we were lucky enough to hit a field goal with a minute and a half left.
“A win’s always great for the boys. They get a little confidence going, and you’ve just got to go back to work and get ready for Lynnfield.”
With Lynnfield, 6-2 overall and 3-0 in Tier 4 play, coming to Hyland Field tonight (7:00), that’ll be no bargain.
The Pioneers have surrendered just 74 points all season, an average of nine-a-week, and have won their three conference games by an average of more than 25 points.
They’ll look to control the line of scrimmage against the Hornets (2-7, 1-2 NEC/CAL Tier 4), as Lynnfield’s bruising offensive line will overshadow the Hornets’ defenders, and will attack both on the ground and through the air.
For reference, the Pioneers beat Hamilton-Wenham, 24-14, two weeks ago. Three weeks ago, the Hornets fell to the Generals, 43-13.
At this point, it appears that the Thanksgiving game between Lynnfield and North Reading will be the unofficial conference championship.
A long shot for the conference title, though, the Hornets have a chance to play spoiler tonight. But while Lynnfield, on paper, appears the clear favorite, the Hornets may be able to bypass the Pioneers’ dominant front-7 with a passing attack that has improved on a weekly basis this season.