HORNET SOPHOMORE  John Merullo intercepted this Ipswich pass on the first play of the second half as North Reading dominated the Tigers in every phase of the game Friday night. (John Friberg Photo)

HORNET SOPHOMORE  John Merullo intercepted this Ipswich pass on the first play of the second half as North Reading dominated the Tigers in every phase of the game Friday night. (John Friberg Photo)


NORTH READING — For the fourth straight season the North Reading High School varsity football team started the season 1–0 right off the bat, as they defeated the Ipswich Tigers 34–8 last Friday night, in front of the home crowd of Arthur Kenney Field and the newly opened high school building.

“Good win to start the season,” said Hornets Head Coach Jeff Wall. “We played hard for most of the game and played well on both sides of the ball.”

The Hornets got their first touchdown of the year on their third offensive play of the season on a 65-yard run by sophomore running back John Merullo, on his first rushing attempt of the season. This gave North Reading a 7–0 lead (after Angelo DiSanto added the extra point) only 1:44 into the young season.  Merullo struck gold again on his second rush of the season (on the first play from scrimmage of the second quarter), this time going 64 yards for the touchdown, increasing the lead for the Green and Gold to 14–0 after the extra point.

Merullo was top yard gainer of the game finishing with 153 yards on the ground on just five carries (an average of 30.6 yards per carry), with the first two touchdowns of the game. Not bad for your first time as a starting running back on varsity.

The Hornets stung again on their very next possession. This time it was junior running back David Smith scampering 16 yards to the end zone, for a North Reading 21–0 at 8:55 of the second quarter.

The North Reading defense had the Tigers on the heels all night long, getting nice sharp hitting from Nic O’Connell and Bobby O’Donnell, and limiting Ipswich quarterback Jake Long to  5-11, for 81 yards through the air. The defense’s biggest stop came at the end the first half with the Tigers were close the end zone, but the defense came up big and stopped them on fourth down at the Hornet goal line.

That stop led to the fourth touchdown of the game by sophomore running Matt McCarthy, going 75 yards with just 11 seconds to go in the half to complete the domination of the first half by the Hornets, who went into the locker room leading, 27–0.

“Our defense played well tonight,” said coach Wall. “I was proud of that fourth down stance that had at the end of the first half, they kept them out the end zone, plus it set up the touchdown. It was big for us.”

The second half for the Green and Gold was mostly running the ball and keeping the clock moving to complete the victory.  David Smith scored North Reading’s fifth touchdown by scampering 18 years at 6:26 in the third quarter. The running game for North Reading ended up with 379 yards providing all the offense the Hornets needed without throwing a pass.

“Like I said last week, you can never  replace an athlete like C.J. McCarthy, but I think we have four capable guys who can run the ball successfully,” said Wall. “I really like how they complement each other and defenses do not know what’s coming towards them.”

The Hornets D almost completed the shutout but with just 1:33 left in the game, Ipswich got on the board with Charlie Gillis running from 5 yards out. The Tigers completed the two–point conversion making the final score of the game, 34–8, North Reading.

The Hornets will be back at it Saturday afternoon, visiting the Hamilton–Wenham Generals, at 2 p.m. “This should be a great game, they always play us tough,” Wall said. “That was a team that we could never win against until recent years. We just need to play our game, and we should be fine on Saturday.”