Echevarria, Freeman carry Spartans to victory

St. Mary's Jalen Echevarria gets hoisted into the air after returning the opening kick-off for a touchdown in Friday's win. (Item Photo by Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — If there were any doubts as to whether Jalen Echevarria’s athletic talents could carry over to the football field, the St. Mary’s senior erased those quickly Friday night against Millis.

Echevarria ran back the opening kick-off for a touchdown and found the end zone twice more, leading the Spartans to a 30-12 season-opening win at Manning Field.

“Jalen’s got speed and he’s very athletic,” first-year Spartans coach Sean Driscoll said. “He’s got a little bit of wiggle to him, which is fun to watch. If he gets the edge and gets a little bit of move, he can break them at anytime. He’s been a great addition to the football team.”

A running back/defensive back, Echevarria, who also plays guard on the school’s boys basketball team, tallied 115 yards on 10 carries to go along with his 3 touchdowns.

Senior running back/linebacker George Freeman ran for 125 yards on 15 carries and scored a touchdown. Patrick Henry caught 1 pass for 22 yards.

The win is Driscoll’s 1st as head coach at St. Mary’s.

“I’ve never been more nervous before a football game in my entire life,” Driscoll said. “You come to a place that has great tradition, it’s a good community. I just wanted to make sure we kept that tradition going and I think the seniors feel the same way.”

The Spartans set the tone from the opening kick-off, when Echevarria grabbed the ball at the 10-yard line and ran it 90 yards for a touchdown. Freeman ran in the 2-point conversion to give the Spartans an 8-0 lead 14 seconds into their season.

“Jalen’s a competitor,” Driscoll said. “He bobbled the ball a little bit on that opening kick-off, picked it up and that got us the momentum we needed from that start. That got us going.”

Echevarria added an 8-yard touchdown run, shortly after Henry caught a 22-yard pass from quarterback Derek O’Leary, with 4:20 remaining in the quarter. Freeman carried in the conversion and the Spartans led 16-0 through 1 quarter.

St. Mary’s added to its lead swiftly in the 2nd quarter, when Echevarria took a hand-off 61 yards into the end zone for his 3rd touchdown of the night. The conversion failed but St. Mary’s held a commanding 22-0 advantage with 9:30 remaining in the half. Millis drove the ball inside St. Mary’s 5-yard line on the next possession but Echevarria ended the threat with an interception. The Mohawks put together a goal-line stance of their own and Millis trailed 22-0 at halftime.

Freeman boosted the Spartans’ lead to 30-0 on a 2-yard touchdown carry with 3:25 left in the 3rd quarter. Echevarria added the conversion on a rush.

Down 30-0 in the fourth quarter, Millis scored twice to make things a little interesting. The 1st came on a 16-yard quarterback scramble by Thomas Fallon. The 2nd was scored by Christopher Edwards on a 70-yard punt return with 4:15 left in the game.

Freeman and Zach Barden (2 carries, 12 yards) carried St. Mary’s into Millis territory on the next possession and the Spartans ran out the clock, sealing the 30-12 win.

“The good news is we came out, we played physical and we played hard,” Driscoll said. “We got 3 quarters-3 ½ quarters in of them playing hard, which they haven’t done all year because of the preseason and stuff. We beat a quality program.

“The kids deserved it. They worked hard all summer. They deserve to get off to a good start.”

The Spartans (1-0) travel to White Stadium next Saturday (noon) to play South Boston.

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