By Dan Harrison
---- — HAMILTON — It seems pretty basic, but if a defense can focus on making all the tackles first, the rest will fall into place.
Manchester Essex running back Chris Dumont eluded a few Hamilton-Wenham tackles on a long touchdown run in the first quarter to make it a one-point game. The Generals made sure to wrap up the rest of the way and the defense forced three, fourth-quarter turnovers as H-W downed the Hornets 14-6 at home.
“We couldn’t really get our offense going but the D played great and we were able to stick it out,” said Generals (2-3) junior Nathan Rawlins, who also spoke about his team’s ability to not miss tackles. “You can’t just hit ‘em. You have to be gritty, wrap up and bring ‘em down.”
Rawlins was exceptional as the experienced Hamilton-Wenham backfield limited the Hornets to quick passes for short gains in the second half. Rawlins made a pair of tackles right at the line of scrimmage, recovered a fumble and intercepted ME (2-3) quarterback Craig Carter in the fourth quarter.
Pete Duvall also had a fumble recovery the in fourth quarter as the Generals held Manchester Essex to just 78 yards in the second half.
“We have veterans in the (defensive) backfield and we’ve been waiting for them to take matters into their own hands,” explained H-W head coach Andrew Morency. “You need good defense to win in the league and we showed that today.”
Offensively, the Generals continue to lean on back up running back Ian Dickey, who is filling in for injured sophomore Cam Macri. After breaking the school record in carries in a game two weeks in a row, the senior showed no signs of slowing down.
H-W opened the game on a 10-play, 60-yard drive that ended in a one-yard Dickey touchdown run. Dickey carried the ball nine times on the drive. ME was able to pull within a point later in the first quarter on Dumont’s 56-yard TD-scamper but late in the third quarter, Dickey broke a 34-yard touchdown run to put the Generals ahead 14-6.
“Ian was injured all summer so he started late. Now he’s bearing the fruit of his hard work,” noted Morency. “He’s the consummate team player. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Dickey was a factor on defense to as another member in the H-W backfield. On Dumont’s lone catch of the game on a swing pass in the second half, Dickey met him immediately as the ball got there and delivered a punishing blow. Dickey, Rawlins and Duval were a big reason why Dumont managed just 24, second-half rushing yards.
Senior signal caller Jack Clay didn’t put up mind-blowing numbers going 5 of 9 for 42 yards. But he did show confidence when his number was called.
“Things have really settled down for Hack. We put a lot on his shoulders early in the season,” said Morency. “What you saw today was Jack putting the ball where it needed to be on big plays. He managed the game very well.”
H-W special teams ace Ryan Gray was also a factor in what proved to be more of a defensive battle than the first quarter indicated. Gray botched his first punt, though he had to handle a bad snap that nearly went over his head, but his second half punts consistently helped H-W win the field position battle. He also booted a kickoff into the end zone for a touchback.