Recap: No. 16 North 47, La Salle (R.I.) 27
September, 8, 2012
By Scott Barboza | ESPNBoston.com
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. -- The heavy late summer air at Community Field kept the glow of the field lights aloft in a fog, giving the illusion that electricity was flowing all around you.
From the very first time he touched the ball, it was evident North Attleborough’s Alex Jette had some sort of current flowing through him Friday night against Rhode Island power La Salle Academy. Whether it was lined up in the slot or in the backfield at tailback, once the Big Red senior captain had the ball in his hands something memorable was about to happen.
A 62-yard tunnel screen route taken for a touchdown, an 81-yard stretch run for score and another rumbling 91-yard score all before halftime were the stuff of legend. After No. 16 North finished out a 47-27 win over the Ocean State’s top-ranked squad, Jette was at the center of giant postgame moshpit between the hashmarks. Drowned out by the chorus of “MVP” chants engulfing him, Jette struggled to talk above the crowd. He talked about his line.
He put up a combined 345 all-purpose yards, with 236 in the ground game while requiring only six carries.
It was a dream scenario and yet the season’s only begun.
“We’ve been waiting for this game for two weeks,” Jette said. “We know they’re one of the best teams in Rhode Island and we just wanted to show that we’re one of the best teams in Massachusetts.”
Even with a 27-7 lead at half time, North wasn’t about to rest on its laurels.
On the opposing sideline, the Rams had an electrifying back of their own in reigning state Gatorade Player of the Year Josh Morris. Along with a spirited performance by quarterback Anthony Francis, La Salle refused to go quietly – even as the Red Rocketeers continued popping off big plays.
“We knew we could throw the ball on them a little bit, I didn’t think we were going to throw it as much as we did, but he [Francis] kept us in the ball game,” Rams head coach Geoff Marcone said.
The teams played table tennis in the third quarter, volleying up and down the field.
North (1-0) promptly started the second half with another touchdown drive, culminating in quarterback Ryan Perron’s 3-yard touchdown run before Francis found Morris on a skinny post for a 63- yard touchdown. North rebutted with a 32-yard run by Mike Lambert.
The breakneck pace took its toll. North became perilously thin at running back after losing their top three rushers to cramps in the third quarter.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, North head coach Don Johnson was racking his depth chart. It was left to players like senior Tyler Sellner to close the game as the Rams threatened to make it a one-possession game inside of two minutes. Sellner came away with two passes defended on the Rams’ final goal-line push.
“We had guys coming off the bench that had to make plays that we really didn’t anticipate to get out on the field, but they did a nice job,” Johnson said.
Taking over the ball on downs, the Red Rocketeers set off one last flare with Lambert rattling off an 86-yard touchdown run as time ran out.
From the first play to the last, something special was in the air.
Postgame, Jette reflected on his performance by looking at the bigger picture.
North’s high effective screen game is potent, particularly they mix in zone blocking schemes in the run game. So the senior co-captain saw his success as a reflection of Big Red’s game plan.
“Coach [offensive coordinator Paul] Sullivan, he has an answer for everything. He’ll come up with a play and he’ll always have a counter off of it. He always knows what the weakness of the defense is and the way to exploit that.”
Of course, it takes a one-of-a-kind athlete to make it all hum.
“He’s such a versatile guy that we feel comfortable running him inside and outside, or anything at the running back,” Johnson said of Jette. “But then he’s such a great athlete in the open space, and he has great hands, so then he can get involved in the screen game.”
TO BE THE BEST, PLAY THE BEST
North’s slate doesn’t get any easier next week, playing Catholic Conference power No. 2 BC High.
“We’ll celebrate this for about a half hour and then we’ve got our hands full next week,” said Johnson after BC High was shut out by Brockton Friday night. “But we’re looking forward to it, what the heck.”
When stopped for an interview after the postgame handshake line, Jette was mobbed by North's representing student body.
Here's what that scene looked like: