DEDHAM, Mass. -- In its last three games, all losses, Lawrence Academy has not lived up to the standards that was expected of them from the outset of the season.
Mental breakdowns on both sides the ball, costly turnovers and mindless penalties all played a role as to why the Spartans sit below .500 at the midway point of the ISL season.
Facing unbeaten Noble and Greenough this afternoon, the attempt to reverse course did not look promising, especially when the Spartans' leading ball carrier A.J. Dillon (toe) did not dress. But LA put forth the type of talent everyone had come to expect.
Mixing an even balance of run and pass, the Spartans thwarted the Bulldogs 28-0 at Burr Field.
"It was a good win," said LA coach Paul Zukauskas, his team now 2-3. "The kids have been really persevering. We were 1-3 coming in and playing a 4-0 team. I'm really proud the way our kids came in prepared. Football is all about life lessons and perseverance so I'm really proud of our guys today."
With Dillon sidelined, the brunt of the carries went to junior Nick Schutz. The Brookline, N.H. native was nothing short of solid, bulldozing his way for 182 yards on 21 carries. Schutz has been a starter in the backfield, along with Dillon, all season, but this game was his breakout effort to date.
"I don't think it was any individual who won this game today but the whole team," said Schutz. "It felt good today. Hopefully, I did the team well and we can get another win next week. All of our hard work this week really paid off and I think it is going to be a big mental changer for us the rest of the way."
It has been said that one play can dictate a team's performance. For the Bulldogs (4-1) that may hold true. On the opening kick, LA failed to field the ball that was recovered by Nobles at the LA 22. Facing a third-and-1 at the 13, power back John Keally juked past a couple of defenders on his way into the end zone. But the senior had the ball knocked loose at the 2-yard line and was recovered by LA.
"It's a game of momentum and big plays and we had a chance at the beginning to get a little momentum, but we didn't, and Lawrence capitalized and was able to make some big plays the rest of the way," Bulldogs ninth-year coach Bob Moore said.
Keally's turnover would eventually lead to a 48-yard touchdown reception by Chris Garrison from Kyle Howes and a 7-0 lead. That combination would come up big again with only two minutes remaining before the half, as the senior signal-caller found Garrison, a junior, for a 47-yard pitch-and-catch sending the Spartans into the break on top 14-0.
Garrison had a stellar afternoon, hauling 11 passes for 204 yards.
Howes was equally impressive. The Maynard, Mass. product completed 14-of-23 passes for 227 yards.
As a team, LA finished with 498 yards while holding to Nobles to 198. The Spartans did a nice job holding down quarterback Ryan Vultaggio (6 of 21, 43 yards passing; 9 carries, 77 yards). Keally finished by rushing nine times for 73 yards.
"Our defense did a really good job and our defensive coordinator (Geoff Harlan) put together an excellent game plan," Zukauskas said. "We've been tough on defense all year and we knew Nobles was a very good football team. So for us to come out and play a game like that I can't be more-prouder of our guys."
The Spartans put this one out of reach early in the third. Following a Bulldog punt, Schutz needed just one play to scamper 67 yards to put his club ahead by 21 points.
LA would close out the scoring in the waning minutes of the quarter. After Nobles failed to convert on a fourth-and-6, the Spartans proceeded to drive 98 yards before Howes found Tim Preston for a 17-yard scoring hook-up.
"Lawrence has some athletes that can make some big plays," Moore said. "I was not surprised how good they are. Their record certainly does not reflect how good a football team they are."