It is obvious that a football team’s offense runs through the quarterback. The importance of that one player is evident when the signal-caller is equally adept running the ball as he is distributing it through the air.
So when Trevor Lyons went down with an injury in the first half of his team’s Division 3A Super Bowl tilt again Bourne on Saturday, the task at hand for the Generals became that much more daunting.
That is not an easy thing to ask, especially against an undefeated opponent in a championship game.
Hamilton-Wenham stayed with the Canalmen for the entire game but just couldn’t get over the hump in a 16-14 loss.
“Against a championship defense it is pretty hard to move the ball, but when you lose one of your main components (it is even harder),” said Generals coach Andrew Morency, whose team dropped its first game of the season to finish 11-1. “(Our team) played their hearts out.”
It was an ironic play that knocked out Lyons, the junior who this year broke the single-season school rushing record. He tweaked his collar bone when he picked up 15 yards on a third-and-9 play to keep the team’s first TD drive alive. It was then the second throw after the hit – a 44-yard scoring strike to Matt Putur (6 catches, 105 yards) with 2:32 left in the first half – that aggravated the injury and ended up being the day for Lyons.
“Steven Brao did a great job filling in,” said Lyons, his arm in a sling after the game. He finished with 38 yards rushing and was 3-for-3 for 48 yards passing. “He drove the team down the field a couple times. I was happy the way the team played. It was a sad way to end (the season).”
The offense stalled in the second half with only 86 yards. Bourne (13-0) stacked the box to keep running back Elliot Burr (11 carries for 39 yards) contained, Brao (6-for-13, 67 yards), a sophomore, was forced to throw probably more than the coaching staff would have preferred for a backup who didn’t attempt a varsity pass all season long.
The go-ahead touchdown followed a Burr fumble, which was the play immediately after Kevin Anthony picked up his second fumble recovery. The Canalmen went 50 yards in 10 plays, culminated by a 10-yard scoring pass by Jason Moriarty (4-for-4, 85 yards) to Nick Pereira. Moriarty punched in the two-point conversion for the 16-14 lead with 2:26 left in the third quarter.
“We came into the game wanting to keep the ball out of number 12’s hands by controlling the clock,” said Bourne coach John McIntyre, referring to Lyons' number. “In the second half we had the will not to lose. The kids were pumped up in the first half and I told them to relax and enjoy themselves.”
Bourne also kept the ball out of the Generals’ hands when they recovered an onsides kick after the go-ahead TD. Dakota Stevens did keep the Canalmen out of the end zone when he tripped up Jake Achstetter in the backfield at the Hamilton-Wenham 5 yard line on a halfback pass. But it took up two more minutes, bringing the total to 7:26 elapsed on the two drives.
“When Trevor went down it was on us (the defense) to make the plays and adjustments,” said Kevin Anthony, a senior tri-captain who recovered a fumble in both the first and second halves. “We got close but fell short. I guess that is the way the cookie crumbles.”
The closest Hamilton-Wenham would get in the fourth quarter was the Bourne 39 yard line – highlighted by a roughing the punter penalty on a fourth-and-14 play – but a pair of three-yard losses by Brao, when his receivers were covered, stalled the drive.
The Generals last possession, beginning with 1:49 showing on the clock, moved to their 40 on Brao completions to Putur and two to Christian Ecker. Two incomplete passes, the final a tip at the line by Achstetter, gave the ball back to Bourne with less than one minute left.
The Canalmen scored on the opening drive of the game on a five-yard sweep by Joe Epps. The senior running back, with more than 1,500 yards and 26 TDs this season, was limited to 54 yards on 13 carries. Moriarty found tight end Drew Girouard for the two-point conversion.
Hamilton-Wenham answered in the second quarter with a patented 11-play drive. Burr capped the 58-yard march down the field when he plunged in from the 1 yard line. Lyons found Luke Wendt for the conversion and a tie game with 4:47 left in the first half.
The second score for the Generals came on the play immediately after a Wendt fumble recovery. Lyons’s pass down the seam to Putur hit the wide receiver in stride at the 15 and he went in untouched for a 44-yard scoring play. With Lyons coming out of the game after the play, Brao came in cold for the conversion, which resulted in a fumble on a muffed handoff to Burr.
The halftime deficit could have been larger if not for a big defensive stand. After Putur’s TD reception, Epps returned the ensuing kick 65 yards to the Hamilton-Wenham 25. On a second-and-goal play, Moriarty bobbled the snap and the ball squirted free to Anthony in the end zone.
“I thought we played well defensively, only losing by two (points),” Morency said.
Said Anthony, whose defensive mates held Bourne, a 30-points-per-game offense, to 16: “I tip my hat to Bourne. We expected a hard, defensive battle.”