Norton Beats Austin Prep For Second Win
Second terrific effort in as many weeks leads to victory on Saturday in Reading.
For a season that started with an awful lot of questions for the Norton High football team, it certainly has gotten off to a terrific start.
After an impressive win over Division 2A opponent Falmouth last week in Mansfield, the Lancers made it two straight to start the 2011 campaign with a 28-18 victory over Austin Prep in a non-league game on Saturday morning in Reading.
With the win, Norton improved to 2-0 overall and is preparing this week for its showdown with the combined team from Millis and Hopedale in the inaugural Tri-Valley League Small Division contest for both squads on Friday night at Adams Field at 7 p.m.
“It was a great game,” said Norton coach Ted Currle. “Overall it was a big step in the right direction for the team. After the last two weeks we are really battle tested. We are growing as a team. We play hard every game and that has resulted in two wins so far.”
Along with facing a good, young Cougar team on Saturday, the Lancer coaching staff also had to change offensive game plans on the fly when Austin Prep threw some unexpected defensive sets at the team.
But coaches and players alike did a terrific job as Norton amassed over 260 yards rushing as a team. That included an outstanding performance by standout junior fullback Joe Colley, who collected 125 yards on the ground on 17 carries.
“We always try to run the ball and mix in some passes,” said Currle. “But they came out in a defense we totally didn’t expect. It was completely different than what we expected. But the kids did an excellent job executing the offense. I give them a lot of credit.”
Colley hooked up with sophomore quarterback Mike Ready for a nine-yard touchdown reception in the game. Ready also had a touchdown pass to junior tight end James Keating, his first varsity score after transferring from Coyle this summer.
Touchdown runs by senior captain and running back Nick Jenkins and Ready capped the scoring for Norton, who notched touchdowns in each quarter and had over 300 yards of total offense on Saturday.
Sophomore running back Zach Sicard had 75 yards on the ground. Ready contributed 55 rushing yards and a score along with a 4-for-8 passing performance for 45 yards and two more touchdowns. Jenkins also chipped in with 30 yards rushing.
“It really helps our offense that defenses can’t key on just one guy,” said Currle. “That has a lot to do with our line and how hard they work. I’m very, very confident in the system we have. The kids are working hard and are seeing the benefits.”
Junior running back Nick Vitale was as good as advertised for the Cougars as he gained 110 yards on the ground and had a touchdown. He also pulled in two passes for 50 yards and had a punt return for a score.
“We had eight guys in the box on defense,” said Currle. “We had a couple of different plans. They had nine or 10 guys at the point of attack. Basically, we were trying to stop the run. But by doing that, they hit six or seven good passes. We had as many guys in the box as we could. We really held our own. I was happy with how the defense played.”
In the first quarter, Austin Prep took a 6-0 lead on a 25-yard touchdown run by Vitale. Norton rebounded later in the period to take the lead when Ready hit Colley with a nine-yard scoring pass. The extra point by senior Pat O’Malley gave the visitors a 7-6 advantage in the final 30 seconds of the opening quarter.
The Lancers pushed their lead to 14-6 when Ready hit Keating with a short two-yard touchdown pass with an O’Malley extra point giving the visitors an eight-point advantage, midway through the second period.
The Cougars closed the gap before the half when Vitale scored on a 68-yard punt return. The two-point conversion failed, but the hosts had pulled within two at the break.
Austin Prep took the lead in the third when Steve Rickley scored on a one-yard run, giving the hosts an 18-14 advantage, following a failed two-point conversion attempt.
But Norton regained the lead for good when Jenkins scored on a three-yard run in the closing moments of the quarter. An O’Malley extra point gave the Lancers a 21-18 lead.
From his linebacker position, Jenkins put an end to a long 18-play drive by Austin Prep in the fourth quarter, when he sacked Cougar senior quarterback Joe Barry for a 10-yard loss on fourth and four with five minutes remaining in the game.
Ready then guided Norton down the field for an insurance score, culminating the clinching 65-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run. O’Malley’s fourth extra point gave the Lancers a 28-18 advantage with two minutes left in the contest.
“We converted some big plays in the fourth quarter,” said Currle. “Really one or two plays were the whole difference in the game. We made a ton of good plays on defense. We really slowed their offense down other than the big plays.
“But we gave up a few too many big plays on defense and our penalties on offense hurt us. But we stayed on our blocks a lot better on offense this week. We also won the turnover battle (1-0). Overall, it was a better game for the team this week.”
Now it is on to the opening of the TVL Small Division schedule on Friday night.