It’s an all-new season, during an all-new season, for the Manchester Essex Regional High School football team.
COVID-19 restrictions forced football out of its usual spot during the fall, with the Cape Ann League teams electing to begin their season instead in March. As a result, the local football team is trying to find its identity while also adjusting to playing almost six months after the usual start of the season, dubbed “Fall II.”
The Hornets have struggled a bit coming out of the gate. The team lost by a 33-13 score to North Reading in the season-opener on March 13, pulled out a 13-10 win over Triton on the road on March 19 and then struggled to score points in an 8-0 loss to Amesbury this past weekend.
“We were struggling to find an identity on offense, defense,” explains ME football coach Jeff Hutton. I didn't think we played very physical in either of the first two games. This week, we finally found out how to play great team defense, and really made it tough on a much bigger, polished team. We are still struggling to get any consistency on offense, but getting closer.”
The Hornets also got a boost this weekend from the small home crowd in attendance.
“It's always better to play in your own backyard,” says Hutton. “This weekend was made even more special with fans from both teams being allowed to attend, cheerleaders and any senior student was allowed to attend. I think we just absorbed all that energy from the day and played a really good football game.
While the season has been played primarily during the spring, the weather over the first couple of weeks brought that familiar element of cold weather that seems inherent to the sport.
“The weather hasn't really been a factor, other than each game until this weekend has been below freezing with wind gusts 25-miles-per-hour plus,” says Hutton. “It was nice to not break out my winter coat and hats for the game this week.”
Up next for the Hornets is a home game against Lynnfield on April 3 at 1.00 p.m.
“Lynnfield has been the toast of the Cape Ann [League] for some time now,” explains Hutton. “They are a great passing team and have athletes at all skill positions. They can run the ball effectively, which makes it tough to just focus on the passing game. Defensively, they may not have the same size as Amesbury, but they are fast, well-coached and will be another big challenge for us.”