By Nick Curcuru
---- — The Manchester Essex football team is itching to get back on the football field this weekend.
The Hornets had a bye in Week 2 following a 42-28 loss at Northeast in Week 1. While head coach Mike Athanas’ team relished the chance for an extra week to game plan, the chance to heal up after a physical game in Week 1 and the chance to work on some new things, the team just wants to get back on the field.
“After the week off we are looking forward to this week,” Athanas said. “The bye week was good, we got a chance to work on a lot of stuff and get some kids healthy, but we’re ready to get back on the field and play a game.”
Manchester Essex will take the field tomorrow morning when they travel to Andover to take on old foe Greater Lawrence Tech (10:30 a.m.). The Reggies (1-0) used to be a conference opponent for Manchester Essex in the Commonwealth Athletic Conference, but this is the first meeting between the two teams since the Hornets moved over to the Cape Ann League in 2011.
In three years, however, Greater Lawrence has adopted a new look.
When the Hornets and Reggies have met in the past, the Reggies were a grind it out team that loved to run the football. But in 2013 Greater Lawrence has changed gears switching to the spread offense, and it has weapons all over the field.
That spread offense was on display last week in the Reggies’ season opener, a 32-25 win over Georgetown in a game that was not as close as the score indicates. Quarterback Ellicen Pena threw for a pair of touchdowns last week on 29 attempts while spreading the ball around to six different receivers, Joseph Pagan leading the way with more than 100 yards. The Hornets expect to see more of the same on Saturday.
“(Pena) is a big kid and they like to throw the ball with him,” Athanas said. “Their wideouts are all speedy and run good routes. Last week it looked like they were throwing those short passes to set up the run and the deep ball and it worked for them. We haven’t seen the spread out of them before but our defense goes against it a lot in the regular season and at practice because we run the same system. Greater Lawrence has always been a good team and we will have our hands full.”
When the Hornets have the ball they will be going against a physical Reggies 4-4 defense. Athanas’ spread offense got the balance he was looking for in Week 1 against Northeast led by the passing of Craig Carter and the rushing of Chris Dumont, both will need to be on point Saturday in the important non-league matchup.
“We always try to be balanced but we are going to take what the defense gives us,” Athanas said. “I liked some of the things we did on offense against Northeast, we got the balance we were looking for and kept the defense on their toes.”
It may only be Week 2, but Manchester Essex certainly needs a win with nine teams in Division 5 North already picking up a victory. A win Saturday will keep the Hornets in the thick of the playoff race, a loss means they will have some ground to make up over the last five weeks where the Hornets will play four games against higher division teams.
“We need to pick up some points towards the playoffs,” Athanas said. “We executed pretty well against Northeast and we are looking to execute and get the win this week.”