English Takes Classical, 38-0 in Thanksgiving Day Contest

December 1, 2017
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By Joyce Erekson

The Lynn Classical cheerleaders are shown at the annual Classical-English Thanksgiving game last Thursday morning at Manning Field.

The English High football team didn’t have much left to prove at Manning Field Thanksgiving morning, but if there were any non-believers remaining, the Bulldogs’ resounding 38-0 win over a very good Classical team brought them on board.

The much-anticipated showdown between the 9-1 Bulldogs and the 8-2 Rams had the potential to be one for the books, but in the end the day belonged to English. The Bulldogs, who had already claimed the Northeastern Conference Divisoin 3 title, became only the third English team in history to finish the season with 10 wins.

Both teams had plenty to be proud about this season. The Rams, under first-year coach Brian Vaughan, finished 8-3 after going 3-8 in 2016. The saving grace that season came on Thanksgiving when the Rams, who had just seen English take the lead with eight seconds left in the game, came back from the dead to win on a crazy kick return by Marcus Rivera.

Although English coach Chris Carroll downplayed the revenge factor in this year’s game, the English faithful, many of them wearing T-shirts that read “Looking for Revenge” had other ideas. Whatever the Bulldogs’ motivation, it worked like a charm.

“This one feels good,” Carroll said. “Last year puts a little extra on it, but every year is a new year. I just love this 2017 team. It’s just a special, special team … To end it this way, playing four great quarters of football, was a really special ending to the season.”

This was Carroll’s third year as head coach. In the two years prior to him taking over, the Bulldogs finished 3-7. In his first year they went 5-6, but fell to 2-9 last season.

“To beat a team as good as Classical 38-0, I don’t think any coach goes in thinking that’s going to happen,” Carroll said. “I’m very happy with the result. I proud for my program and of my team.”

The Rams had hoped for a better ending to their season.

“That was a good, old-fashioned butt-whooping,” Vaughan said, crediting Carroll and his players. “They were better prepared than us. They came out here and laid the wood on us. Sometimes as a program you’ve got to take that. Today wasn’t our day.”

Despite the loss, Vaughan and the Rams have plenty to be happy about.

“It was a great season,” Vaughan said. “To be able to turn it around in less than a year – that’s a huge accomplishment.”

The Bulldogs dominated just about every aspect of the game. They led 16-0 at the half with their first touchdown coming late in the first quarter on a four-yard run by Ishmile Bangura (Mathias Fowler ran in the conversion). The drive started at the Classical 37. Bangura, who had eight touchdowns this season, finished with 163 yards rushing.

English bumped the lead up to 16-0 with 3:30 left in the half. This time around it was junior quarterback Matt Severance hitting Prince Brown with a 22-yard touchdown pass and then running it in for the two-point conversion. Brown had 12 touchdowns this year despite being on-the-shelf (due to a fractured hand) as receiver in the Bulldogs’ loss to Tewksbury in the North final.

Severance threw his second TD pass of the game on the Bulldogs’ first possession of the second half with this one, a 23-yard toss, going to senior Juan Avelino. Severance was stopped on the run. The Bulldogs got the ball on their own 30 on their next possession, but on first-and-10 Bangura (670 yards rushing this season) deposited the ball on the Classical three with a 67-yard run. Senior Ski Gaston took it in from the three with Bangura running in the conversion, giving English a 30-0 lead late in the third quarter.

Gaston, who rushed for more than 700 yards this season, ran in his second of the day (10th TD overall) from the six with eight minutes left in the game. Bangura ran for two for the 38-0 final.

Severance had a huge year (1,400 yards passing, 500 rushing, 28 total TDs) for the Bulldogs. Senior Jacob Miller (12 sacks) was a potent weapon for English on defense.

The Rams also had some very impressive individual performances this year. Nashaun Butler eclipsed the 1,000 yards rushing mark on Thanksgiving. He finished with 12 touchdowns. Classical quarterback Keith Ridley passed for 18 touchdowns and scored eight while teammate Malcolm Best had eight and Marcus Tucker, four. Two of Tucker’s were game-winners.

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