Published in the November 3, 2016 edition

THE HORNET DEFENSE stifled Bedford throughout the game, forcing them to run even when behind in the score. Above, Bob O'Donnell, (52), Bob Donohue, (4) and Matt McCarthy close in on the Bedford running back. (Bob Turosz Photo)

THE HORNET DEFENSE stifled Bedford throughout the game, forcing them to run even when behind in the score. Above, Bob O’Donnell, (52), Bob Donohue, (4) and Matt McCarthy close in on the Bedford running back. (Bob Turosz Photo)


NORTH READING — For second straight year, the North Reading Hornets varsity football team is on to the second round of the state playoffs on the strength of a 35–0 blowout of the Bedford Buccaneers, before an ecstatic home crowd Friday night.

The brilliant Hornet offense took first possession of the ball, but things didn’t go exactly as planned to begin with. The Bucs forced them into three false start penalties in a row to make it second down and 21 yards to go. On the very next play, junior quarterback Kyle Bythrow erased the penalty yardage and more by running 26 yards for the first down. The drive finished up with another 20 yards and one more run by Bythrow, this from the Bedford 23, into the end zone for first score of the night. Senior captain Bobby O’Donnell pounded the extra point through the uprights to give the Green and Gold a 7–0 lead with 3:33 left in the first quarter.

The drive was one of most memorable of the 2016 season for Hornets, as they were penalized five times but it was still really productive as they went 10 plays for 74 yards and ate up the first 7:27 minutes on the clock. For North Reading head coach Jeff Wall, it showed the determination his club had to win the contest and continue their playoff journey.

“The kids believe in themselves,” said Wall. “They got down because of the penalties but they didn’t hang their heads. They believed they could get that score and they did. They are a special team.”

After a three and out by the Bedford offense, North Reading increased the lead to 14–0, thanks to another lengthy drive that was completed by a senior captain halfback John Merullo running it in from the Hornets’ 4 yard line, after which O’Donnell tacked on the extra point.

The lead would increase to 21–0 on another amazing touchdown on the season by senior captain Matt McCarthy, who scored on a 62 yard punt return, running basically untouched thanks to some great blocks by the Hornet special teamers.

Before the first half ended, the Green and Gold added one more touchdown to complete the 28 point pounding they gave Bedford in the second quarter when McCarthy darted across the goal line from the one yard line for the score. The extra point by O’Donnell went through to give North Reading a 28–0 lead at the half.

McCarthy would end the night running for 117 yards on 15 carries, with the two end zones crossings. As the season progresses, it seems Mr. McCarthy has gotten better and better. When this was pointed out after the game, he deflected credit to the rest of the team for the 2016 campaign. “I’ve been doing the same things since the beginning of the season, it’s just that we have seriously come together as a whole team. Our common goal has been accomplished in every game,” said McCarthy. “Everyone is working hard and communicating, that’s all we can ask for. As for the offensive line, I need to buy them dinner soon.”

McCarthy leads Division 2A in scoring with 20 touchdowns and 123 total points.

Bythrow also had an outstanding night, running for 88 yards on just nine carries and two touchdowns including the only score in the second half, a 26 yard ramble with 1:03 left in the third quarter. O’Donnell rocketed ball through the goal posts for the extra point to make it a 35–0 advantage, Green and Gold.

The Hornet defense matched the offense in terms of intensity and excellence as they pitched their first shutout of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Bedford couldn’t get anything going all night thanks to the likes of O’Connell, Michael Quaratiello, Bob Donohue, Merullo, Ryan Edison, McCarthy (who contributed an interception, his second in as many weeks), and Tommy McHugh.

The 7–1 Green and Gold will host the 7–1 Danvers High School Falcons in the second round of the Division 2A playoffs. This game will be an educational experience for both sides, as the teams have not played each other in years and this will be Coach Wall’s first run–in with the Falcons outside of an exhibition game. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at the Arthur Kenney Field.