LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Sorry, no bulletin board material this time around.
A week after boldly guaranteeing a victory over BC High in an interview with ESPN Boston (his No. 8 Chelmsford Lions lost by three scores), quarterback Colby Emanouil bounced back efficiently in tonight's 42-16 win over Lawrence at Veterans Memorial Stadium. He ran, threw and caught his way to the tune of 162 total yards and two touchdowns, as the Lions won their Merrimack Valley Conference opener.
The Lions dictated the tempo right from the get go, marching 51 yards in seven plays on their first drive to score easily. Setting up the run was a 29-yard scamper by Eddie Sheridan (128 total yards, 3 total TD) off a sweep down the left sideline, breaking loose for 29 yards and running it down to the two thanks in no small part to split end Vinny Maniscalco.
Split wide to the near sideline out of a twins left I-formation, Maniscalco sustained his block 15 yards downfield and kept the Lawrence defensive back pinned towards the sideline, to open up the perimeter for Sheridan and make it a footrace. Sheridan plunged in from two yards out on the next play (with Boston College-bound linebacker Tim Joy as the lead blocker), and tapped on a two-point rush for the game's opening score with two minutes left in the first quarter.
Chelmsford scored three more times in the second quarter on a Sheridan plunge, a 30-yard Connor Brimley interception return, and a back-breaking 44-yard throwback pass from Eric Van Gelder to Emanouil, making it 29-0 headed into the half.
Spoken like a kid on double secret probation, Emanouil was all smiles yet all vanilla following the win.
"We were just looking to get our confidence back after that loss," Emanouil said. "It felt great to get our confidence back again. That's all we wanted."
The momentum swing following last week's loss to No. 3 BC High was evident tonight.
"Sometimes a loss can help you," Lions head coach Bruce Rich said. "Last week we were able to take a good look at ourselves, and we improved. We watched film from that BC game, and I thought our kids showed up with the right attitude tonight. I thought they had a good attitude last week, but we were just able to fix more things with that loss under our belt."
Said Lawrence head coach Mike Yameen, "They just played faster than us. We knew we were facing a good team, they just played faster and were a better team. We're not playing as well as I know we can, but we just lost to a better team today. That's just the bottom line."
Play of the game: Undoubtedly, Emanouil's impromptu flea-flicker (more on that in a second) shifted whatever momentum left on the fence all the way in favor of Chelmsford. The Lions came out in a four-receiver shotgun set, with three receivers in trips to the far right sideline and fullback Matt Rabbito in a three-point stance in the slot one yard off the ball.
Emanouil planted and immediately fired to Van Gelder, who started towards the left sideline like it was an end-around. The play was designed as a change-of-pace play to catch the Lancers off guard, with Van Gelder pushing north around the left side; but with the receiver in trouble, Emanouil broke off his blocking defender and hauled in a short bloop of a pass. Emanouil then reversed direction and raced to the near right pylon some 40 yards downfield, untouched, for the score.
"It wasn't designed for me at all, actually," Emanouil said. "I was supposed to be blocking over there, and I saw him struggling, so I called for the ball. Then I did my thing. It was improvised -- well-improvised."
Said Rich, "I can't tell you if it was exactly by design, with Colby finally catching the ball and running it in, but it's going to make more people work in practice. So, it worked."
Pound and stretch: Rich is known across the state for using the I Formation to pound it hard between the tackles, and tonight wasn't too much of a deviation. The Lions used primarily double-tight and twins packages; in goal line and short-yardage situations, they deployed two fullbacks and a tailback stacked linearly (known more popularly as the "Stack I" or "Maryland I"), with Joy as the lead blocker.
"That's the best play, my favorite play of the game," Joy laughed. "It just comes down to whoever's tougher, and you're not going to be tougher than me."
But in the final four minutes of the first half, the Lions abandoned that altogether and stretched the field, deploying double-slot and trips sets out of the shotgun, or in one instance putting Emanouil under center with four receivers in a diamond formation to the right.
The change of pace was efficient in the Lions' final drive of the first half, as they marched 75 yards in 41 seconds and four plays, capped with Emanouil's 44-yard touchdown reception.
"We're capable of opening up, we've always been," Rich said. "I know it's generally out of the I, running power, but we're able to open it up. Our quarterback is dangerous, he's got good wheels. We're able to run with him, and we've got some pretty good receivers as well. We got protection tonight [too], which I thought was good."
Happy feet, red zone miscues: To accomodate for its lack of size, Lawrence deploys a run-and-shoot scheme, with undersized quarterback Nathan Baez (5-foot-3, 145 pounds) executing bubble screens to the flats, and running backs like Kelvin Severino motioning from either slot and taking a jet sweep handoff.
Coupled with constant pre-snap movement, it's a scheme that keeps you on your toes. But the Lions countered with plenty of movement of their own, with linebackers Joy, Joey Christopher and Corey Everleigh hopping back and forth, and the secondary disguising Cover-2 at times to look like a Cover 0.
"I think when you face the spread offense, you really have to disguise, mix things up up front," Rich said. "They're trying to read from upstairs and tell the people down below what to call, so with all the movement in the secondary and up front, that causes confusion, and I thought it worked tonight.
One of the more commonly-voiced flaws about spread attacks is that they break down in the red zone. The Lancers were certainly able to move the ball, putting up 110 yards at the half to Chelmsford's 176; but twice they had the ball inside the Lions' 20 yard line, and both times they turned the ball over.
Harrington's mix and match: Senior defensive end Brett Harrington is one of the most versatile players on the defensive side of Chelmsford's squad, with his agility as a basketball center allowing him to shade outside in a two-point stance; play a five technique outside the tackles; or kick down to the nose, and shoot the A-gap. And at 6-foot-3 and a lean 220 pounds, he can overpower with force and speed.
It's a welcome change for a guy who before last year's switch to a 3-4 had spent his whole career in a two-point stance.
"Last year, we put him down in that d-tackle spot, and he took to it," Rich said of Harrington. "It was fantastic. He only played three football games for us last year (due to injury), but I think he's as good as they come. He's got great size, great agility. He plays basketball, he's a center on the basketball team, he's a main factor for us on that defensive line. He wreaks havoc, gets his hands up and can change directions and track quarterbacks."
Promise in secondary: Yameen had to be encouraged by the play of senior Demitiro Leonardo at safety. The 5-foot-9 senior was efficient in the second half, coming up with a few jarring stops in run support and keeping a few passes from turning into big gains with a few big hits.
"We had specific keys on them, tendencies we saw on film, which we didn't cover in the first half," Yameen said. "But he did a nice job tonight."
Fire it up: Just before kickoff, Lawrence emerges from the locker room with a lance, a spear and a sledgehammer. The players carrying those items are awarded them as "hit sticks" and "battle sticks" for delivering the game's best hit. The sticks were made a few years ago by an alum, according to Yameen.
"We got fired up tonight," Yameen said. "But after tonight, we've got to go back to the drawing board, see what we can do."
CHELMSFORD 42, LAWRENCE 16
CHM (3-1, 1-0 MVC) 8 21 0 13 --- 42
LAW (2-2, 1-1 MVC) 0 0 0 16 --- 16
C - Eddie Sheridan 2 run (Tim Joy rush) 2:02
C - Sheridan 5 run (Charlie Calenda kick) 8:08
C - Connor Brimley 30 interception return (Calenda kick) 7:09
C - Colby Emanouil 44 pass from Eric Van Gelder (Calenda kick) 0:00
C - Sheridan 22 pass from Emanouil (Calenda kick) 9:33
L - Joel Rodriguez 32 pass from Nathan Baez (Brian Montero-Ford rush) 5:41
C - Jeff D'Auria 2 run (kick failed) 2:22
L - Tim Lemasurier 85 kickoff return (Bobby Sullivan pass from Baez) 2:04