THE HORNET defense was lights out against visiting Ipswich on Friday night, including the pictured Anthony Corvino (10). (Adele Vittozzi Photo)
By DAN ZIMMERMAN
NORTH READING — The North Reading football team’s offensive production thus far this season, which has climbed to 175 points scored in four outings, speaks for itself. But the Hornet defense has also enjoyed rapid improvement in recent weeks and played a substantial role in last Friday night’s dominant 48-6 win over Ipswich.
Of their 39 offensive plays on the night, visiting Ipswich endured nine no-gainers and 10 tries resulting in negative yardage. The Hornet defense held the Tigers to 75-yards of offense, with 49 of that meager total earned during a late scoring series while facing reserves.
“We do have a very good defense,” said North Reading Coach Ed Blum, who improved to 4-0 overall with yet another decisive win. “When we play fundamental football, with the right technique, we have a lot of guys who can make plays. Credit to their work in the off-season on building strength and speed. They put in the time and it’s paying off.”
Blum pointed out a number of Hornets who furnished key plays.
“I give credit to both lines,” said Blum. “When you play a team that uses a Wing-T type offense, you have to respond to that. Guys like (Matt) Guidebeck and Ryan Labb, trying to set the edge. And Branden Eng continues to grow both offensive and defensively. (Ryan) McGuire and (Anthony) Corvino certainly showed their abilities tonight to name a few.”
“I just want to say that I played assignment football and did what I’ve been taught to do this week,” said humble defensive lineman Corvino, who on one first quarter possession in particular, contributed a pair of tackles, forcing a punt that led to a short field for the Hornets.
In the first three games this season, North Reading was quickly out of the gate, scoring on the first play from scrimmage in each. While not quite as dramatic, the Hornets’ game opening possession did result in points, as QB Alex Carucci polished off a 7-play, 70-yard march with a 1-yard plunge. The next score, however, was riveting as Craig Rubino returned a line-drive punt 47-yards.
As the first quarter came to a close, North Reading added a little trickery to the mix. Carucci pitched the ball to Rubino and took off downfield. The Ipswich defense converged on the ball-carrier, who lofted a 43-yard pass back to Carucci. The senior QB soon added his second rushing TD of the night, from the 3.
“We have a lot of weapons,” said Carucci, who also threw for a pair of scores. “It makes my life easier with so many incredible athletes around me. We’ve built chemistry across the board and there’s so much depth at the skill positions.”
Midway through the third quarter and facing 4th-and-3 in the red zone, Carucci rolled right and fired, finding Ryan McGuire for a 17-yarder and a 28-0 lead. On the final play of the half, Carucci linked-up with Eng for a 28-yard TD, despite three straight Hornet penalties. Guidebeck, 6 of 7 on the night, was wide left but the Hornets had settled into a comfortable 34-0 lead.
At the outset of the second half, pressured Ipswich QB Eliot Donovan hurried his throw and was picked off by Eng. Hornets senior tailback Ty Rich later converted the takeaway with a 25-yard TD rush but it was negated by yet another yellow flag. After the Hornets advanced into the red zone, Rich was again given the ball and this time, he would not be denied, scampering in from the 16.
There was no hiding the fact from the North Reading faithful that Will Batten was missing from the lineup. Sidelined in Week 3, the Hornets leading tailback is tending to an undisclosed injury. But while his production is unavailable, there is ample depth to fill the void.
“It’s always an opportunity for guys to step up,” said Blum. “As you get deeper into this season, we need to be multi-dimensional. You need other players to be confident. When their number is called, they have to be ready to make the plays. And the way they develop that confidence is by getting experience in a game situation and getting accustomed to varsity speed.”
Ipswich snapped the shutout late in the third quarter with a 28-yard throw from Donovan to Louie Harrington. But offsetting that score with a 41-yard TD sprint was freshman tailback Otto Indelicato, who now has three rushing scores in the last two weeks.
“We knew we had other running backs who could step up,” said Carucci, when asked about Batten. “We knew Rubino could move in and Rich could step in. And obviously, Otto Indelicato showed he can fill that spot.”
North Reading (4-0) will host Triton (2-2) on Friday night at 6 p.m.