English blanks Classical in 105th meeting

English's James Polonia lets out as yell as he celebrates with his Bulldogs. (Item Photo by Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — If Classical football coach Brian Vaughan had been told his defense would hold English to 12 points in Thursday’s Thanksgiving duel between the crosstown rivals, he’d have felt pretty good about that.

But English’s defense came to play too.

The Bulldogs set the tone with a fumble recovered in the end zone on Classical’s first possession, and went on to take a 12-0 win over the Rams in the 105th meeting between the teams at Manning Field.

Classical’s mistakes made for a frustrating game for the Rams.

“The mistakes we had on offense you just can’t do,” Vaughan said. “We had a fumble in the zone. We had another fumble going in. Those two turnovers were killers. We had some miscommunication throughout the game. We weren’t on the same page. When that happens, it’s very hard to be successful.”

English stalled on the opening drive but pinned Classical deep in its own territory on Tahj Purter’s punt. From the first play of the ensuing drive, English’s pressure put Classical on its heels. With a heavy blitz, English forced a fumble in the end zone and Anthony Timmons pounced on the ball to give his Bulldogs a 6-0 lead (PAT failed).

“That was a huge play in the game for us,” English coach Chris Carroll said. “To have that strip sack and force a fumble in the end zone, that was huge. It was a great play by Fenix Figueroa and great awareness on the recovery by Anthony.”

That’s how it stayed until the Bulldogs, who worked time-consuming drives to perfection, added to their lead with quarterback Matt Severance’s 4-yard touchdown run (PAT blocked).

Needing to move the chains as the first half closed, Classical quarterback Keith Ridley (6-for-15, 80 yards) found his footing with completions to Cameron Greene (three catches, 35 yards) and Maurice Sequeira (one catch, six yards). The Rams reached English’s 6-yard line before Timmons recovered another Classical fumble with 2:24 remaining in the half. English went to its locker room ahead, 12-0, at halftime.

Both defenses took over the rest of the way. Classical found its way into English’s side of the field again in the third quarter, only to watch its drive stall at the Bulldogs’ 37. The Bulldogs, with Severance (22 carries, 87 yards) and Miguel Ramos (24 carries, 105 yards) doing the heavy lifting in their running game, came within 6 yards of adding to their lead in the fourth quarter before Classical stopped them short on 4th-and-goal.

Classical’s offense couldn’t complement the defense’s efforts to keep the Rams in the game.

“The defense played well,” Vaughan said. “(English) controlled the clock a little bit. They kept our offense off the field.”

Manny Guerrero’s sack on 4th-and-5 gave the Rams a final shot with 4:50 to play. Severance’s interception on the next play, with Classical looking to throw the ball downfield for a big gain, squashed the Rams’ hopes and sealed English’s win.

The shutout was the second in a row for the Bulldogs against Classical.

“It’s a testament to the whole program,” Carroll said. “We were focused in practice this week. We were ready for it and then executed. That goes from players all the way down to the coaches. We take a lot of pride in those shutouts, especially because our defense has been questioned throughout the season and rightfully so. It’s a testament to the whole program buying into what we wanted to do this game.”

Despite the loss, Vaughan was pleased with Classical’s efforts throughout the season. The Rams, which will graduate 17 seniors, finished at 7-4. They fell short of a postseason bid despite a 4-3 record and rode a five-game winning streak into Thursday’s game.

“Not only were we 4-3, but we were the only team in Eastern Mass. with a winning record and not make the playoffs,” Vaughan said. “For our kids to respond the way they did, play the way they did and play good football for five weeks, that’s a credit to our seniors and their leadership. That’s a positive. I think our program’s moving in the right direction.”

English will graduate 15 seniors and finished the season at 8-3.

“I’m really proud of the 2018 English football team,” Carroll said. “I’m really proud of our seniors and everything they’ve accomplished.”

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