LYNN — The weather was horrendous. The wind was howling, and blowing right to left so fiercely that the many flags that adorn Manning Field were blowing straight ahead.
And the night had that vibe to it. The first game of Friday’s doubleheader had been a pull-and-tug affair that went into overtime before it was settled.
And for a while, it looked as if the nightcap would be just as fraught with tension. But English made big plays when it had to, and the Bulldogs stuck a late touchdown into the end zone to defeat North Reading, 14-0, to win their third straight.
The heroes Friday night were on the other side of the ball, as the Bulldog defense kept North Reading — last year’s Division 2A North finalist — at bay for the entire game.
“I’m really proud of our defense tonight,” said Bulldogs coach Chris Carroll, “especially our coordinator, Steve Hill. Those guys really made great plays.”
Meriting particular praise from Carroll were Jacob Miller (“he has a real nose for the ball; he’s all over the field”), Ski Gaston, Emil Rossi and Matt Severance.
It was Miller who made the game-sealing interception with the Hornets (1-2) knocking at the door in efforts to try and get a touchdown before time ran out.
Carroll wasn’t as enthralled with his offense, even though the Bulldogs did win the game. At times, the Bulldogs seemed to have trouble adjusting to the harsh conditions on the field.
“It was the wind more than the rain,” he said. “Where we like to stretch our offense out, that affected us.
“But they played in that wind too,” Carroll said. “We have to take better care of the ball.”
Carroll was particularly irritated at a series at the end of the first half in which the Bulldogs a) dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone; and b) fumbled away the ball, giving the Hornets a life at the end of the first half. But every time it looked as if North Reading might get something going, the defense made a big play.
English made it 6-0 on a long drive in the first quarter that started on the Bulldogs 35 and ended with Gaston running it in from the 6-yard line. Severance got all the way up to the goal line on the conversion try, but could go no farther.
That’s how it stayed until the fourth quarter. Prior to that English survived two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the same play — the final one of the second quarter — that forced the Bulldogs to kick off from their own 13. They weathered all storms, though, and early in the final period, North Reading lined up to punt and the snap sailed way over the kicker’s head, and it was down in the end zone by the Hornets for a safety making it 8-0.
Ishmile Bangura set up his own 7-yard touchown run with a 42-yard scamper just prior to it, and English led 14-0 with 2:09 left in the game.