Lynn English junior quarterback Lucas Harris connected on a 31-yard touchdown pass to senior Chris Lessard in the final minute to help the Bulldogs defeat Lynn Classical, 13-12, in the 100th edition of the Thanksgiving game Thursday at Manning Field.
Lessard followed up the touchdown with the winning PAT out of the hold of Harris and the long snap from center Danny Kane.
“The touchdown is definitely a memorable play,” said Harris. “It was fourth-and-19 with 42 seconds left on the clock. We had a play with Chris Lessard going up the field and I scrambled right and made the throw, 31 yards into the end zone and Chris Lessard caught it.”
Harris was confident on the final drive, saying he trusted his offensive line, his teammates, and Lessard especially.
“I was very proud of Chris – he’s a great player and I was happy to have him as my teammate,” said Harris. “On that last touchdown, Chris told me to trust him and I did and we came out with a big play and we won.”
Harris said the Thanksgiving game means everything to the English players.
“Winning the final game against Classical on Thanksgiving is like winning a championship game – it means everything,” said Harris. “Coach Holey tells us all the time how important this game. You’re playing your rival. It’s a big game. It’s a very important game for all of us.”
English head coach Peter Holey understands the magnitude of the Thanksgiving game, having played in three of the games himself at the old Manning Bowl. Holey, who went on to play major college football at BC, knew he had witnessed a classic and one of the most dramatic Thanksgiving plays in Bulldogs’ history.
“It was a season in a game – it made the entire season for us,” said Holey. “It’s the most important game of the year.”
Holey said he had a lot of respect for Classical heading into the game.
“I thought Classical had some very good players and they’re well coached,” said Holey. “But even when Classical went ahead 12-6, I was pretty confident. I knew we had two timeouts left and three minutes on the clock. And we had Chris Lessard, too. He’s made great plays for us all year.”
Indeed it was Lessard who made an outstanding catch of a Harris pass along the sidelines to give the Budllogs a key first down with 1:20 left in the game. But Harris and Lessard weren’t done yet.
On fourth-and-19, Harris found Lessard amidst Classical defenders in the end zone for the game-tying touchdown with 42 seconds remaining. “Chris has made great plays for us all year,” said Holey. “He’s done that several times where he’s gone up in the end zone and come down with the ball over defenders. It just highlights the type of player he can be. People forget that Chris has played the entire season with a torn labrum in his shoulder.”
Holey also credited the leadership and skill of Harris, who scrambled away from pressure before releasing a pass that will forever cement Harris’s presence in English football annals.
“He is a gamer, I’ll tell you that,” said Holey. “He bought himself some time. Lucas Harris is a playmaker.”
Holey said the Harris-Lessard touchdown pass play could top the all-time list in the program’s history.
“It’s right up there with the Jimmy Smith 43-yard field goal in 1986 to beat Classical, 16-14,” recalled Holey, who was 0-for-3 as a player versus Classical but who is 5-1 as a head coach. “There was a huge play in 1990 when Chris Warren threw a touchdown pass to Kenny Todd on the last play of the game versus Swampscott that propelled us to the Super Bowl.”
Defensive lineman Chris Tinkham and Hugh Callice and linebackers Zach Lozzi and Danny Kane led an outstanding effort by the English defense. Sophomore safety Dequan Sheppard also played well.
“A lot of kids contributed to this victory,” said Holey. “These kids have been fighting all year.”
Lucas Harris won’t have much time to savor the Bulldogs’ thrilling victory. He’s begun practice for the English varsity basketball team and in the spring the talented 6-footer will pitch and play shortstop for the baseball team.
However, Harris and Lessard and the Lynn English football team will always have the memories of Thanksgiving 2013 and their holiday heroics for years to come.