By Jean DePlacido
---- — NORTH READING – After the last night’s game, Masconomet coach Jim Pugh told his players they had to improve in a hurry, and that they were lucky to escape with a victory. It took a come from behind fourth quarter touchdown by the Chieftains to edge a gritty North Reading team, 21-18.
It was not Masconomet’s finest performance, especially on defense. They gave up 190 yards on the ground in the first half alone, but tightened up after intermission. The Chieftains mixed up the run and pass effectively to pull out the win.
When the Hornets were able to contain the run, Masco went to the air led by quarterback Troy Bunker, who threw two touchdown passes. Bunker hit Harry Cwik for a 31-yard TD reception with 7:21 remaining in the game. He found Nolan Rice in the back of the end zone, and the 6-2 receiver leaped up to make a big catch on the two point conversion to put the Chieftains ahead for good.
With the win Masco is now 3-1 overall and looking forward to the anniversary home game against Pentucket next Friday night. They came away with a victory, but may have lost running back Mike Tivinis was injured on the go-ahead drive. The senior captain either dislocated or broke his finger after an eight yard gain. Mackenzie Cashin was the workhorse the rest of the way.
“We did not play well, but all the credit goes to North Reading,” said Pugh. “We couldn’t stop the run, and C. J. McCarthy and (Mike) Cresta played their hearts out. We didn’t play smart football, but did just enough to win.
“The Cape Ann League has a lot of good teams that are well coached. You have to be ready every week, and we lacked intensity. We’ve got some holes to fill, especially now that Tivy is hurt. The bottom line is we have to get better.”
McCarthy gained 138 yards on 23 carries, and had 100 yards by halftime when the Hornets were up, 12-6. Cresta only carried the ball five times but gained 71 yards. North Reading scored on its opening drive, going 65 yards in six plays with McCarthy breaking loose for a 47-yard touchdown run.
The Chieftains answered right back with Bunker finding Corey Tines for a 48-yard touchdown catch. Tines beat defenders and was wide open at the 25-yard line, but it didn’t take North Reading long to take a 12-6 lead with 4:23 left in the opening quarter when McCarthy barreled in from a yard out.
“The game comes down to blocking and tackling,” said Pugh. “We didn’t get the job done. Bunker threw some nice passes, and both Cwik and Tines made some big catches.”
Both teams moved the ball up and down the field in the first half. North Reading drove to the Masco 17-yard line, but the defense held on big tackles by Kyle Taggart, Steve O’Reilly, and Kyle Kowalski.
The Chieftains also had a couple of big chances, but an illegal block in the back wiped out a great 80-yard run by Tivinis, who broke tackles to go all the way.
“We gave them everything we had,” said North Reading coach Jeff Wall after his team dropped to 2-2. “We’ve got three starters on the shelf, but these kids came out and played with courage and heart. McCarthy has great speed, and great vision. He made some big plays. We’re going to learn from this loss and come back stronger.”
The teams traded touchdowns with Masco mounting a second half opening drive that was capped by a 13-yard touchdown run up the middle by Mackenzie Cashin. After Bunker kicked the extra point the Chieftains led, 13-12. Once again North Reading answered back, going 63 yards on the ground with McCarthy getting his third touchdown of the night on fourth-and-3 to put his team ahead, 18-13 with 10:55 remaining.
Bunker, who was 5-9-132 yards and two TD’s, fired a 20-yard strike to Cwik, who broke tackles to the NR 25-yard line. Two plays later the Bunker to Cwik connection worked again for the winning TD pass.
“I just throw it as far as I can, and I know Tines and Cwik are going to beat their man,” said Bunker. “Rice also made two great catches. We knew they had to respect our backs in the second half, and when the defense creeps in to stop the run we go to the play action pass.”
“McCarthy was on me in the second half, but we have other weapons,” said Tines, who has caught a touchdown pass in all four games this season. “We are lucky to have a great line and great backs so we can mix things up. I try to use my speed to go deep because I know Troy will get the ball to me.”