It has turned into a trend over the first four weeks of the high school football season; the Gloucester defense dominates the second half.
Through four games the 3-1 Fishermen have repeatedly gotten better on defense as the game wears, and they have done so every week. Of its 70 points allowed on the year, the Gloucester defense has surrendered just 21 points in the second half.
That dominant second half defense was on display in Friday’s dramatic 18-14 win over Beverly.
The Fishermen held the Panthers to just 47 yards of total offense over the final 22 minutes of play while allowing 15 yards rushing on just 18 plays against one of the most dangerous backfields in the Northeastern Conference. The Fishermen defense was also opportunistic forcing a pair of late fourth quarter fumbles, the second one, which was recovered by Jordan Pallazola, set up the winning touchdown with 19.9 seconds to play.
That’s not to say Gloucester didn’t play well defensively in the first half, it did, but the second half defense was nearly perfect and kept Gloucester within striking distance. And when it made the biggest play of the game by forcing a fumble with 1:39 to play, the offense followed the defense’s lead and capped off a dramatic victory.
The Fishermen defense has been very good in just about every game this season - with the exception of the first half of the Masconomet game - but in the second half, the unit has been great which is a great sign moving forward into the Northeastern Conference Large schedule. If Gloucester has a lead at halftime, the defense will make it really tough for teams to make a comeback.
Speaking of defense, it’s about time to take the Manchester Essex defense seriously as well. The Hornets put forth their second straight dominant defensive effort in Friday’s 28-12 win over Georgetown, following up last week’s stout defensive effort in a 22-12 win over Greater Lawrence.
Strong play from the defensive line, led by Will Davis and Brett Williams, and a strong linebacking core led by tackling machine Doug Rodier (17 tackles, six solo) has powered the unit.
In their last two wins the Hornets have allowed just one big play in each game and have been equally effective against the run and pass.
The Hornets will need to continue to play great defense as the Cape Ann League Small season pushes forward and the schedule gets more difficult.
It’s a bit of a cliche when coaches tell players to never give up on a play, but on Friday Gloucester’s Eli Horne showed what can happen when you play hard until the whistle.
Beverly running back Isaiah White broke through the Fishermen secondary and appeared to be going in for a 63 yard touchdown run. But Horne, Gloucester’s starting safety, didn’t give up on the play and ran down White at the one yard line. On the very next play Beverly fumbled the football and Gloucester recovered.
It was the hustle of Horne, who also clinched the win with a last second interception, that kept points off the board in a tight contest.
Manchester Essex may have also found the strength of its offense; the running game.
Senior captains Chris Dumont and Nate Riehl have been chewing up yards out of the backfield but the running success has been a total team effort. Of course the two backs have been picking up tough yards and making plays in the open field, but the offensive line, led by Williams and Davis, have also thrived opening up big holes and getting a nice push on the opponents defensive line.
It doesn’t stop there either as the downfield blocking from unselfish wideouts Seth Cohen, Liam Logue and John Bruce has also been outstanding.
“We have really had our running game going,” Hornets head coach Mike Athanas said. “We decided that’s what we wanted to do this week and everybody contributed to its success.”
With Craig Carter also playing well at quarterback, opposing defenses have a lot to be wary of when they take the field against Manchester Essex, as it can pound teams with the running game only to hit a big passing play when the defense over commits to the run.