Sunday, October 8, 2017

Lawrence Academy Wins ISL Thriller Against Governor's Academy

By John McGuirk (@patsfan1313)

BYFIELD, Mass. -This was a moment of truth for Lawrence Academy.

After racking a pair of easy victories in their first two games against Buckingham, Browne & Nichols and Noble & Greenough, the Spartans would face major adversity throughout Saturday's pivotal ISL match up against Governor's Academy. Trailing by 14 points midway through the second quarter, LA was able to put its collective grit on display as it rallied for a 27-20 triumph.

In a contest that featured a number of jabs and body blows from both clubs, the Spartans took their first and only lead on Josh Arruda's 2-yard run with 6:51 remaining. They then had to withstand two Governor's drives in the waning minutes to hold onto victory.

"Governor's is a great team and are very well-coached," said LA head coach Paul Zukauskas. "I'm proud of our guys. All throughout the preseason we focused on conditioning and today it paid off. It was a gut check for us being down 14-0 but we were able to come back. This is always a tough place to win at."

Relying heavily on its ground game for much of the final half, the Spartans (3-0) were able to capitalize by picking up positive yardage along the way. Down 20-13, following Shane Smith's 27 yard touchdown catch with 5:38 remaining in the third quarter, LA decided to scrap its passing attack.

Behind freshman Juan Muse and Arruda, the Spartans started moving the ball with more fluidity. Late in the third, both Muse and Arruda started to find some holes within a now-fatigued Governor's defense. With less than 30 seconds left in the quarter, LA drove to the Governor's 15 yard line. Taking a counter hand-off, Muse jettisoned into the end zone to square things up 20 apiece. Hailing from New Haven, CT, Muse finished with 164 yards on 27 attempts, with 107 of those yards coming in the second half. Arruda, a junior from Jaffrey, NH, rushed for 48 yards.

"The thing about both of those kids is that they are really tough kids," Zukauskas said.

After each club did nothing on its opening possessions to begin the final frame, LA caught a huge break when Arruda stepped in front of a Jared Dupere pass and returned it to the Governor's 26. Three carries by Muse, netting 24 yards, set the stage for Arruda's scoring run which proved to be the game-winner.

With dusk beginning to settle in over this elegant campus, Governor's (2-1) had two opportunities to knot things late. On its first possession, following the Spartans score, it failed to convert on fourth down. Following a LA punt, Governor's got the ball back on its own 38 with 2:42 left. Behind Dupere (15 of 36 for 295 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs), Governor's marched to the Spartans 20 with 3 seconds showing. But a last desperation heave by Dupere, a senior from Amesbury, was intercepted in front of the goal line by Thomas Greaney to put a seal on this one.

Gaining 178 yards of offense in the first half, LA finished with 313. Governor's amassed 385 yards.

"Our guys left it all out on the field today and played with a lot of heart," said Governor's head coach Jim O'Leary. "Obviously we needed to score more points but just a couple of mistakes let them back in. You never want to be satisfied in regards to the way we played, but we had them running scared at times. Lawrence is the iron of the league. But knowing that we can play with them proves that we can play with everybody else. We just need to stick together and continue to get better. I told our kids to lets try and run the table the rest of the way and maybe we will get a bowl bid. Funny things happen in this league so you never know."

In this longtime, heated rivalry, you couldn't have asked for a better beginning for Governor's. On its first play from scrimmage, Dupere tossed a swing pass to junior running back Quinton Stott. The Newburyport resident proceeded to out-run the pack 69 yards down the right sideline putting Governor's in front 7-0. With LA's offense struggling early and often, Governor's pushed the lead to 14 points just two minutes into the second quarter. On first-and-10 from his own 39, Dupere connected with wide receiver, and Winchendon native, Joseph Pridgen in stride down the right side line. The junior broke free from defender Spencer Aronson to complete the 61 yard scoring hookup.

Showing no signs of panic, LA recovered nicely on its ensuing possession. A key 10 yard run by Arruda led to Muse's 24 yard reception, over the middle, from Brady Martin and slicing the deficit to seven points with 7:29 to go before halftime. Martin, a sophomore, had a decent afternoon completing 12 of 25 passes for 111 yards and 3 TDs.

With time melting down in the second quarter, Governor's elected to go for it on fourth-and-two from Spartans 49. But Stott (56 yards) was stopped just short. With the ball back in the Spartans' hands, they drove 51 yards capped off by tight end Joseph Luchetti's one-handed 5 yard grab from Martin in the back of the end zone with 0:55 showing. But Mike Mastrangelo's PAT try was blocked by Luke Moriarty sending Governor's into the break ahead by a point.

"Going into the half I still felt pretty good about our chances," Zukauskas said.

After Smith's touchdown reception, midway through the third quarter, extended Governor's  advantage back to seven points following an impressive 81 yard drive, once again LA found itself on the outside looking in. Things didn't improve much soon after once Justin Barron fumbled the ensuing kickoff. However, the Spartans defense persevered by forcing a quick three and out. A few moments later, Moriarty picked off Martin. But again, Governor's offense faltered and was forced to punt. The proceeding possession would lead to LA's tying score, and, as a result, the Spartans would secure that momentum the rest of the way.

"Our senior leadership has been really good this year," said Luchetti, a senior from Wayland bound for Boston College. "I felt like our defense had low energy at the beginning of the game but as the game went on our conditioning really helped us. We kind of rose to the challenge in the fourth quarter and played really good. This is a big win for us."

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