Hornets cruise past Northeast Metro Tech in season opener, 42-14

Sep 12, 2019 by

Published September 12, 2019

By DAN ZIMMERMAN

WAKEFIELD — As the clock ticked down to the intermission in Friday night’s football season-opener pitting North Reading against Northeast, the only unanswered question was whether the fast-approaching remnants of Hurricane Dorian would impact the second half. The game itself, at this juncture, was all but decided.

On the strength of five throwing TD’s from junior QB Brian Heffernan, four in the first half alone, North Reading handily defeated the Northeast Golden Knights, 42-14, and handed head coach Ed Blum a win to kick off his second season at the helm.

THE HORNET defense, including Aidan Carucci (6), Gerry Callagy (21), Nick Tormey (55) and Sean McCullough (51), stifled Northeast the whole game. (John Friberg Photo)

At times, the Hornets looked like they were already in mid-season form. This became evident in the first minute of play when Heffernan led a hurry-up offense over 56-yards, finishing with a 28-yard screen to senior Jack Keller for an early lead.

“We have some guys on this team that are very well-conditioned,” said Blum. “It’s a credit to the players when they can successfully execute the hurry-up. An offense that can do that for you just lifts the whole team and sets the opposition back on their heels.”

In this instance, however, Northeast proved resilient. Down 6-0 after North Reading missed the 2-point conversion try, the host Golden Knights answered on their first drive, capping an 11-play, 60-yard series with a 4-yard bull run from Izzy Lainez.

Then, on the next North Reading possession, receiver Ryan Kavanaugh lost the handle after gathering a Heffernan toss, snuffing out a promising drive with a turnover deep in Northeast territory.

The Hornets of years past might have panicked – recent history hasn’t been kind to this team and the negativity was infectious according to observers. But Blum emphasized that this year’s group has a winning attitude.

SENIOR Greg Demetri keeps a Hornet drive alive with a great diving catch on 3rd down. (John Friberg Photo)

“The culture began to shift about four years ago when the current crop of seniors was just starting out,” the coach explained. “Each year since, they’ve raised the bar. The seniors are doing that for us. They put in the hard work during the off-season and it’s paying off for them.”

Trailing 8-6 at the start of the second quarter, Heffernan went to work, leading receiver senior Greg Demetri, who came up with a diving grab to breathe new life into a faltering drive. The Hornets then fed the Golden Knights steady doses of junior Will O’Leary, whose powerful running delivered his team to the red zone. From there, it was the capable arm of Heffernan finding senior Matt Luciano for a 20-yarder. North Reading further erased the deficit, making it 14-8 on a Keller to junior Will Taylor 2-point conversion.

“That was an incredible catch by Demetri,” said Blum, who agreed that his squad is loaded with depth at the skill positions. “We were down at that point with a third-and-long and it was a timely conversion.”

Heffernan, who compiled 241-yards passing on 13-of-19 attempts, added a pair of TD throws before the break to put the Hornets ahead, 28-8. The junior QB found Demetri for a 12-yarder and later, capitalized on senior Sean McCullough’s fumble recovery, with a flip over the top to Luciano who won a foot race for a 45-yarder.

“Heffernan does a good job reading the play,” said Blum, who was the offensive coordinator with the Hornets for two seasons before becoming head coach. “He has a knack for making the defense make the wrong decisions. This is a fun offense to watch.”

The North Reading defense impressed, as well. Senior linebacker Nick Tormey rang up a number of key tackles, including a sack of Northeast QB Owen Halley that forced a punt and ultimately led to a Hornet score. Tormey and his defensive teammates delivered punishing hits time and again, forcing a pair of costly turnovers.

“At times, I think our defense is undersized but their effort to compensate for that is impressive,” said Blum. “Players like Tormey – across the whole defense – they all have the drive. They run through tackles and it’s just awesome to watch from the sidelines.”

North Reading wrapped up their scoring early in the fourth quarter with an O’Leary 3-yard TD rush. Junior place-kicker Robert Tammaro, automatic, split the uprights to finish the night 4-of-4.

Northeast consumed the remainder of the game with a grueling 12-play, 69-yard scoring drive, all rush, polished off with a 7-yard QB keeper.

“There are a number of things we can get better at,” said Blum, whose Hornets next travel to face Greater Lawrence Tech on Friday night. “We’ll watch the film and see where we can clean up mistakes and improve execution. But with that said, this was a good first game and we’ll certainly take it.”

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