LYNN — The English football team’s plan coming into Thursday’s game against Thanksgiving rival Classical was to stick to its routine.
Through the first 10 games of the season, the Bulldogs relied on their spread offense and their speedy receivers to put points on the scoreboard.
They were looking to do the same Thursday but the frigid temperatures and heavy winds forced the Bulldogs to adjust. English shifted to a classic “ground and pound” attack and it worked wonders.
With the ground game running on all cylinders, English kept Classical’s offense off the field. English’s defense contributed with a pair of fumble recoveries, one in the end zone, and an interception in the 12-0 win over Classical at Manning Field.
Senior quarterback Matt Severance only completed two passes (both to Mathias Fowler for a total of 14 yards) but did plenty of damage on his 22 keepers. Severance rushed for 87 yards while Miguel Ramos, a senior running back, ran for 105 yards on 24 carries.
“The game plan wasn’t to be in double-wing the whole game,” English coach Chris Carroll said. “With (weather) elements like (Thursday’s) and as the season progresses you have to adjust on the fly. You have to take what teams give you.
“We have very talented receivers and Matt at quarterback,” he said. “Our game plan wasn’t to pound it the whole game. We saw an opening with double-wing and we executed. The kids responded very well. I have to give a shoutout to our offensive line. Miguel and Matt had a ton of carries. They were able to grind it out.”
English’s defense made it a tough Thanksgiving for Classical. Anthony Timmons recovered both Classical fumbles. The first was scooped in the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. Timmons recovered the second on English’s 6-yard line to squash Classical’s best drive of the game.
“We executed the game plan,” Carroll said. “The whole defensive front, Jerial Garcia, Tommy Gaylord, Alex Brenes, Fenix Figueroa, Anthony Timmons, Nolan Mulcahy. That combination was able to contain the run and stop them to force second-and-long, which forced third-and-long. We felt we had a good matchup with our defensive backs against their receivers.
“Fowler was a huge part of our game plan,” Carroll said. “Tahj Purter was tremendous. Matt’s interception in the fourth quarter was the final turning point in the game.”
English’s special teams also played a key role. After the Bulldogs fell short on their opening drive, Purter and the punt team were called to the field. Purter booted a punt to Classical’s 6, opening the door for Timmons to score on his fumble recovery.
“That was a very underrated play of the game,” Carroll said. “That was a tremendous punt by Tahj. He’s a great athlete, he also plays basketball. What a punt that was to set them back deep. That set up our first touchdown.”
After Timmons gave his Bulldogs a 6-0 lead, Severance followed suit with a 4-yard touchdown scamper to make it a 12-0 game. English’s running game, with Severance and Ramos doing the heavy lifting, controlled the clock the rest of the way.
Classical’s last chance at climbing back in came toward the end of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs turned the ball over on downs with Manny Guerrero’s sack of Severance on 4th-and-5. Needing to move the ball quickly, Classical attempted a deep pass that was intercepted by Severance at English’s 35 with 4:43 remaining.
And that was all she wrote for Classical.
“I feel very, very proud and accomplished for how our team executed,” Carroll said. “The defense bought in and had a really good game. They shut down a good offense. It always comes down to the kids making plays out there. Our kids came ready to play.”
English will graduate 15 seniors from its program next spring and Carroll said he’s proud of them. Carroll, in his fourth season at English, took over when the current seniors were freshmen.
“It’s my first full class,” Carroll said. “I started four years ago, they started four years ago. It’s always special to me. I’ve grown as they’ve grown. They went 18-4 their past two seasons, that’s quite an accomplishment. It’s a great group of kids. Matt has meant a lot to our program. He’s been our leader for a long time now. He’s earned everything. I’m so proud of our whole group of seniors.”