Sports 11-08-2016

Johnson (5 TDs), St Mary’s advance to North final

St. Mary’s of Lynn continued its domination of Division 3A opponents when the team overpowered fourth-seeded Lynnfield 44-24 Friday night, Nov. 4, at Manning Field.

The Spartans take on another group of Spartans–the surprising Stoneham High Spartans – Friday night, Nov. 11, at Manning Bowl in the Division 3A North final.

Despite last week’s lopsided final score against Winthrop, the Lynnfield game created more anxiety for St. Mary’s than any of their other contests along the way to their 8-0 record. Their 16-0 halftime lead – courtesy of a pair of Calvin Johnson touchdowns and James Brumfield two-point conversions – was their smallest halftime lead all season.

The third quarter saw Lynnfield creep to within eight points, 16-8, after a Matt Mortelite-to-Nick Kinnon touchdown and two-point conversion.

St. Mary’s edged out to 22-8 on a Johnson 58-yard run, but Lynnfield was threatening again until Marcus Atkins picked off a Lynnfield pass near the end zone and took it nearly 90 yards the other way to the Lynnfield five yard line. Johnson then scored again to push the lead to 30-8. The teams swapped scores the rest of the way, including Johnson’s fifth TD of the night en route to the 44-24 final.

While St. Mary’s entered tourney play as the top seed with a 7-0 record, this week’s seventh-seeded opponents, Stoneham, have knocked off second-seed Shawsheen and sixth-seed Ipswich. Ipswich, incidentally, had toppled third seed Greater Lawrence, leaving St. Mary’s as the lone team remaining of the top four seeds in Division 3A North.

Play of the Day

Atkins’s interception helps key Spartans 44-24 victory

By Cary Shuman

St. Mary’s coach Matt Durgin said Marcus Atkins’s leadership at quarterback has been instrumental in the team’s undefeated season to-date.

In the Spartans’ Division 3A North semifinal 44-24 victory over Lynnfield at Manning Field, it was the junior’s defense that earned him “play of the day” recognition.

With Lynnfield threatening to cut the St. Mary’s lead to one score and ignite some momentum, Atkins intercepted a pass and returned the football 85 yards to the 5-yard line.

Junior running back Calvin Johnson, who’s having a phenomenal season, scored a touchdown and it was a 30-8 game.

“Marcus’s interception was huge,” said Matt Durgin. “Marcus stepped up and made a huge play for us. He hasn’t gotten noticed as much but he’s just become a great leader for us each week.”

Atkins, whose brother, James, plays defensive end for the University of Connecticut football team, described his momentum-changing play.

“In the moment I was backpedaling and I saw the quarterback break on the ball, so I broke on the ball and just went downhill and the ball ended up in my hands and I just started running,” said Atkins. “Our defensive backs coach trained us to backpedal and read the quarterback’s eyes and that’s what I did.”

To Lynnfield’s credit (and receiver Nick Kinnon certainly looks like a player to watch next season for the Pioneers), the visitors closed the gap to 30-16, but the 1-2 punch of James Brumfield and Calvin Johnson sealed the victory with rushing touchdowns.

Durgin felt his team responded well to what was arguably its toughest test of the season.

“The offensive line did a very good job all night and Calvin was Calvin,” said Durgin. “Abraham Toe got hit on the ankle (and was sidelined) but I thought James Brumfield did a great job stepping in. Give Lynnfield credit. They gave us everything we can handle and hopefully this is going to make us a lot better.”

Lynnfield coach Neal Weidman said St. Mary’s made “two nice adjustments” on defense that greatly influenced the outcome of the game.

“One for the run game and one for the pass game – they stopped rushing their taller kids and started just having them read the quarterback and put their hands up and they got a couple of batted balls in row which was smart on their part.”

St. Mary’s plays Stoneham in the Division 3A North championship game Friday night. The winner advances to the Super Bowl on Dec. 3 at Gillette Stadium.

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