Miss the Action This Past Saturday? We’ve Got You Covered.
By Michael James LeClair
LEOMINSTER – Revenge is a dish best served cold, or if you’re the Massachusetts Phoenix football team, served on the gridiron.
It’s been a strong start to the season for the expansion Phoenix, who is in their first year as a member of the East Coast Football League. The Phoenix has won two of their first three games. The team’s only loss was a 6-0 defensive battle against the Marshfield Hurricanes back on June 16 at Marshfield High School.
On Saturday evening the Phoenix would get their chance at redemption as those Hurricanes made their way North to Doyle Field in Leominster.
The Phoenix did just that as they knocked the Hurricanes from the list of unbeaten teams with a 30-20 victory.
The win improves the Phoenix to 3-1 while the Hurricanes fall to 3-1. Despite the identical overall records, the Phoenix own first place in the Northern Division of the ECFL.
“I think the week off last week helped us because I felt we were crisper on offense tonight. I felt we did a lot of good things on both sides of the ball,” said Phoenix head coach Jason Andrews whose squad has won three straight games. “This one is really sweet after what happened in the first game of the season but the truth is we will probably face them again in the playoffs so we will need to stay focused.”
The Phoenix will look to make it four straight wins next Sunday, July 22 when they travel to West Roxbury to take on the Massachusetts Gators. The Phoenix blanked the Gators 30-0 back on June 30.
As for Saturday’s contest against the Hurricanes, The hosts used a strong start to jump out to a 10-0 lead a quarter and a half into the contest.
The Phoenix offense wasted little time getting the party started as it marched 60-yards on eight plays to find pay dirt on the game’s opening possession. Quarterback and Fitchburg native Christian Lopez connected with Leominster High grad Derek Franks in the right corner of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown toss for a lightning fast 6-0 lead. Chris Bruno added a successful point-after kick to make it 7-0.
Frank’s touchdown catch was the only points of the opening stanza. The Phoenix defense stood tall the first time it hit the field forcing the Hurricanes to punt.
The hosts picked up right where they left off as they went back to work on the offensive side of the football. A steady diet of the ground game from running backs Theodore Norris, David Bonilla and Zach Patton along with hookups through the air from Lopez to Brandon Percoskie and Franks helped move the pigskin into field goal range where Bruno drilled a 33-yard attempt to make it 10-0 five minutes into the second quarter.
The Hurricanes took advantage of a Phoenix offensive miscue late in the second quarter when Lopez fumbled the ball deep inside Phoenix territory. The Hurricanes pounced on the football at the 14-yard line. Two plays later the guests were on the scoreboard when Chris McNally rumbled his way into the end zone from 10 yards away. The conversion pass fell incomplete to keep it a 10-6 score.
The Phoenix defense was solid over the first 30 minutes of action. Big tackles by Angel Biegan and Michael Alvarez along with key defensive stops by the Phoenix secondary, led by Chris Akins (two interceptions) limited the visitors to just six first-half points as the Phoenix enjoyed a 10-6 advantage heading into halftime.
In the third quarter, the home team expanded its lead to 17-6 with the only points of the frame. A 21-yard touchdown run by Norris and the kick after by Bruno pushed the hosts lead back to double-digits heading into the fourth quarter.
During a wild final 15 minutes that saw the two squads combine for 27 points, the Hurricanes pulled to within striking distance with an 18-yard touchdown run by McNally early in the frame to make it 17-12. The Phoenix special teams defense made another key stop as they prevented the Hurricanes from completing the conversion pass to keep it a five-point lead.
The Phoenix put the game away over the next seven minutes as they registered a pair of touchdowns to push the lead to an insurmountable amount. An over the middle reception by Franks turned into something special when he broke a couple tackles and was off to the races for an 83-yard touchdown reception. Bruno’s kick made it 24-12 before Isiah Ford got into the scoring act two possessions later with a 23-yard touchdown scamper. Bruno’s kick was deflected and missed the uprights.
The Hurricanes would strike once more with a 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a conversion run by Mark Reale made it 30-20 with less than a minute left.
With their final gasp, the guests attempted an unsuccessful onside kick shortly before the Phoenix offense took the field and lined up in victory formation.
The Phoenix will play their next three games on the road and don’t return home to Doyle Field until August 11 when they host Rhode Island Cowboys.