By Nick Curcuru
---- — Manchester Essex and Northeast may not be Commonwealth Athletic Conference rivals with the Hornets moving over to the Cape Ann League in 2011. But that hasn’t stopped the two teams from continuing their rivalry on the gridiron.
Tonight the Hornets and Golden Knights will renew the rivalry in a Division 5 North clash at Northeast Metro Regional Vocational High School (6:00 p.m.). With both teams playing in the same division, the victor will earn 10 points towards divisional playoff standings.
There’s no secrets between Manchester Essex and Northeast, both teams know what the other wants to do and both teams have seen just about everything its opponent will throw at them.
“They’re a strong, tough, well-coached team like they are every year,” Hornets head coach Mike Athanas said. “We know what they’re going to do which is come out and run the ball with the sweep, trap and iso and they know what we want to do too.”
Tonight’s matchup pits a clash of styles, Manchester Essex playing the more wide open, fast paced finesse game and Northeast playing the three yards and a cloud of dust power game.
Offensively Manchester Essex is breaking in a new quarterback in junior Craig Carter, who has had a strong preseason. Athanas hopes to have a balanced offense as the Golden Knights will have to be wary of both Carter in the passing game and senior captain Chris Dumont in the run game.
When the Hornets throw Carter’s favorite target has been Seth Cohen out of the slot this preseason but Dumont can also split out wide and catch the football as well.
“Craig’s looked good this preseason and he’s starting to develop some nice chemistry with Seth Cohen,” Athanas said. “He has a big arm and he’s a smart kid which is going to help him a lot. We want to run the ball too, keep the offense balanced and take what the defense gives us.”
When Northeast has the ball it will look to run the football out of the wing-t offense. The Golden Knights execute the wing-t as well as anybody and the Hornets will have to keep tabs on every back in their backfield.
The running game, however, is not where the Northeast attack begins and ends. Put an extra man in the box and head coach Don Heres will not be afraid to roll out his play-action passing attack.
“They’re going to come out and run the ball, run sweep, trap and iso,” Athanas said. “But they will take what you give them just like us. They can lull you to sleep with the run and then hit a big play down the field in the passing game. We have to be ready for everything.”
Defensively the Hornets are led by defensive ends Will and Mike Davis, twin brothers, and senior captain Nate Riehl at the linebacker spot. Manchester Essex’s defense will need to bring its best tonight to slow down the dangerous Golden Knights offense.
“They’re a tough team, we will have our hands full,” Athanas said. “We just need to play our game. Tackle well, read your keys and play physical on defense and execute on offense.”
At a Glance Who: Manchester Essex at Northeast Where: Northeast Metro Regional Vocational High School, Wakefield When: Tonight, 6:00 p.m. What Manchester Essex needs to do: Force Northeast to play the Hornets style. What Northeast needs to do: Control the clock and the tempo with its running game. What's at Stake?: Each team can earn 10 points in the Division 5 North Standings with a win. Did You Know?: This is one of just three games Manchester Essex plays against an opponent in its own division.