There’s no shortage of things that the Manchester Essex football team will be looking to improve on as the Hornets open up their conference slate today.
Through their 1-5 start, coach Mike Athanas’ list of problems seems to have grown each week, to the point that it all-but encompasses every facet of the game.
But as the Hornets take the field today against the reigning NEC/CAL Tier 4 champion, Hamilton-Wenham (2:00, Hamilton-Wenham High School), the biggest thing holding them back is something that can’t be worked out on the practice field.
The Hornets enter the game without four key, two-way starters: senior captains Jake Fitzgerald and Zac Fleming, junior Chris Dumont and sophomore Doug Rodier.
For bigger schools, four injuries would likely have less of an impact. But for a team, like the Hornets, limited by a small roster, a pile of injuries can be crippling.
Those injuries have left the Hornets searching for answers, especially on offense, where they’re now left with just two players -- senior captains quarterback Cory Burnham and wide receiver John Beardsley -- with more then twelve offensive touches on the season.
So as they enter division play today, the Hornets will be forced to lean on Burnham even more than they already have with three ball-carriers in Dumont, Fitzgerald and Fleming out. While he’s been more than capable to this point in the season, amassing 643 passing yards and 330 rushing yards for a combined 10 touchdowns, Manchester Essex now appears somewhat one-dimensional.
They’ll need increased contributions from the likes of Sean Desmond, Nate Riehl, Brian McAuliff and Henry Gedney to help deal with those injuries in conference play.
And even then, it’ll still be an uphill climb as the Hornets try to right the ship and compete for a Tier 4 title.