RYAN McGUIRE returns his first of two interceptions early in the NRHS football team’s win over Newburyport on Friday night. McGuire’s second pick was returned 99 yards for a TD. (Adele Vittozzi Photo)
Ready for home showdown with Hamilton-Wenham Friday night
By DAN ZIMMERMAN
NORTH READING — A week removed from their only defeat of the season, the North Reading Hornets bounced back Friday night, handing a hobbled Newburyport club a 42-7 drubbing.
Following traditional senior night festivities, the Hornets took out their collective frustrations on the visiting Clippers, running roughshod over an injury-depleted group that fell to 4-4 with the loss.
In a game starkly similar to the 46-9 win over Greater Lawrence at the season outset, in which the Hornets reaped the maximum results with a minimum effort, the win over Newburyport required less than 20 plays. Most of the scoring was one and done, including a trio of sensational TDs in the first quarter.
Junior defensive back Ryan McGuire set the tone early with back-to-back pickoffs, including seizing QB Finn Sullivan’s first attempt. The Hornets quickly converted the turnover with a 52-yard Alex Carucci to Craig Rubino link-up. Later, McGuire foiled a Newburyport red zone visit with a pick-6, racing the takeaway 99-yards along the friendly sideline for a 14-0 lead.
“Ryan is another player who has realized success on the football field through hard work,” said head coach Ed Blum, who improved to 6-1 (CAL 3-1). “Newburyport tried a little trickery on that first play but Ryan didn’t fall for it. And then they’re driving on us and he makes another pick for a 99-yard touchdown. Two big plays that led to points, I’m very happy with Ryan’s defensive contribution.”
Near the end of the first quarter, Will Batten broke from the pack and won a footrace for a 93-yard insurance score that triggered frenzied praise from the stands. At the end of the half, Batten added a 10-yarder to front the Hornets, 28-0. And when play resumed after the intermission, he once again wielded his explosive speed with a score from 56-yards, cementing the win.
“Will Batten has been incredible,” said Blum of his tailback, who rushed for 210 yards on just 10 carries. “As a sophomore, there’s still a mental learning curve and a lot to learn in terms of situational football but he works hard and has put himself in a position to be one of the better players on the field.”
“We were angry after that Amesbury game,” said Batten, referring to the 30-28 nail biter the week before. “We applied that anger to this game.”
The North Reading defense, while somewhat overshadowed, did their job with methodical efficiency. Aside from the early interceptions, Sullivan was throwing well, completing 12-of-20 for 140 yards. But the Newburyport ground attack, led by Sullivan and Kane Brennan, was limited to 117 yards on 23 tries. Credited for key drive-ending sacks were Batten, Aidan Smith and Owen Delano.
Before handing the ball to fourth quarter substitutes and an unabated clock, the teams traded visits to wrap up the scoring. Newburyport snapped the shutout on a 29-yarder from Brennan and on the first play of the next possession, Carucci found John Jennings for a 69-yarder.
“We knew after taking our first loss, it was important to bounce back strong,” said Carucci, who was a perfect 6-of-6 for 165 yards and 2 TDs. “That Amesbury game was the first time we faced adversity this year so in practice, we worked on how we would battle back and we did that tonight.”
Meanwhile, dependable place-kicker Matt Guidebeck enjoyed his best performance of the campaign, ultimately booting PATs six-for-six on the night.
“Guys are stepping up,” said Blum, who agreed it was great to be home after three weeks on the road. “More and more players are getting opportunities and that’s a good thing as we get deeper into the season. It was obviously a tough week after a loss but that’s how a football season works. Now we have to get ready for Hamilton-Wenham, yet another great team in the CAL. It’s going to be a tough battle.”
North Reading will next host the 6-1 Hamilton-Wenham Generals on Friday at 5 p.m.