WAKEFIELD- As the old saying goes, offense wins games, defense wins championships.
In Saturday's matchup between Manchester Essex and Northeast, the Golden Knights proved why they have won two straight Super Bowl titles as their defense was dominant in a 26-7 win over the Hornets at Northeast Regional Vocational High School.
"Without a doubt they played well and they are a very good defensive team," said Hornets head coach Mike Athanas, who's team falls to 3-3 with the loss. "They executed up front and it hurt us. For the first time all year we had trouble up front with some of their linemen."
Northeast (5-1) head coach Don Heres also praised the play of his defense.
"Our defense played physical and they played with a lot of pride," Heres said. "They played as hard as they could for four quarters and they played well."
The Golden Knights defense held Manchester Essex to just 85 yards of total offense. In fact, The Hornets gained more yards on Northeast penalties (120 yards) than they did offensively.
The turning point of the game came early in the fourth quarter with Manchester Essex trailing 12-0. The Hornets had a first and goal from the Knights one yard line but could not get a score. Northeast picked up a sack on second down and held the Hornets on third and fourth down incomplete passes.
The stop was big for Northeast, but what happened after was even bigger. The very next play Golden Knights quarterback Troy Tartarini took a simple quarterback sneak up the middle from his own one yard line 43 yards to the 44 yard line.
"On that play I just wanted to get us away from the goal line," Heres said. "But he found a seam and picked up a big gain."
Four plays later Bobby Novello (181 yards rushing) raced 42 yards to the end zone for a 20-0 Northeast lead, a potential 15 point swing that pretty much ended the Hornets hopes of winning.
Manchester Essex, however, didn't go away quietly as Cory Burnham scored on the ensuing drive. The Hornets then recovered an onside kick but could not reach the end zone. Fullback Jonathan Hughes sealed the deal with a 26 yard touchdown run as time expired.
"They execute better then us," Athanas said. "I thought our defense did a great job stopping them early in the second half but we made a few mental mistakes on the goal line."
Northeast scored first late in the second quarter when Kenny Bartolo took a reverse 34 yards to the end zone giving Northeast a 6-0 lead.
The Golden Knights then made intercepted Burnham on the ensuing possession and took control of the game. Northeast went 38 yards in two plays culminating with a 22 yard touchdown reception by David Scott from quarterback David Mahoney as time expired in the half giving Northeast a 12-0 lead at the break. Scott out-jumped a pair of Hornets defenders to pull in the touchdown reception and all the momentum heading into the second half.
"We can't let something like that happen," Athanas said. "We were right there but we didn't make a play. You aren't going to win when you allow a team to score a touchdown on a long pass play with no time left in the half."