By Dan Harrison
---- — The St. Mary’s football team will look to bounce back after last week’s loss to Cardinal Spellman when the team travels to face undefeated Bishop Fenwick tonight.
If the Spartans are going to get back on the winning track, they’ll need another big showing from Peabody natives Jordan Manthorne and Jack Leonard as well as Salem native Connor Sakowich.
Manthorne, a senior, and Sakowich, a junior, are two of St. Mary’s three feature backs in the double wing offense. Both guys started the season with a bang in the Spartans 64-39 win over Swampscott with Manthorne rushing for 183-yards, three touchdowns and two, two-point conversions and Sakowich contributing 246 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Manthorne didn’t play football his sophomore year but returned as a junior to be an integral part in the Spartan backfield as the team made it all the way to the Division IV Super Bowl before eventually losing to Abington 14-8. He rushed for 1,009 yards including 109 in the Spartans’ playoff win over Shawsheen.
Head coach Matt Durgin loves the work ethic he sees in the senior, who finished with 1,218 all-purpose yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.
“He’s very competitive, works hard in the off season and he is a very good athlete,” Durgin said of Manthorne. “He’s pretty versatile and a gifted high school athlete. He can catch, runs well and does a nice job blocking. He’s a good high school football player all around.”
Sakowich has good size and speed. The junior can run over and around defenders and has given St. Mary’s a lift both on offense and in special teams. In last week’s 26-8 loss to Cardinal Spellman, Sakowich took a kickoff 74-yards for the Spartan’s lone touchdown of the game.
Sakowich credits his offensive line and Manthorne for their hard work and just tries to do his job when his number is called.
“Jack knows his stuff. He knows what to do on every play and blocks hard. The O-line is real good up front and Jordan runs the ball hard,” noted Sakowich. “When I get my opportunity I hit the hole hard.”
Sakowich is also one of the team’s top linebackers on a defense that’s giving up just under 22 points a game.
“He’s a hard-nosed kid who goes about his business and just plays football,” said Durgin.
Leonard meanwhile plays guard and is one of the Spartan’s top offensive linemen. He and the rest of the Spartans big guys up front have consistently opened up holes for Sakowich and Manthorne.
“He’s (Leonard) a strong, tough kid. Quick with his feet too,” said Manthorne. “Coach Durgin takes care of that stuff (the linemen assignments), I just run the hole. The line really helps me out. Anything will work if everyone does their job. If the line does their job and we do our job and hit the hole, we usually get something out of it.”
St. Mary’s is 3-2 on the season but has lost twice in the last three weeks. The Spartans need a big road win against one of the toughest teams on the North Shore this year in Bishop Fenwick (5-0). Sakowich will have his hands full trying to stop Rufus Russions, Nick Bona and the rest of the Crusader offense.
“We need to move the ball to keep their offense off the field and play hard-nosed defense,” said Sakowich. “We need to stop the run and on backside not get beat for anything.”
All three guys will need big offensive days too. Bishop Fenwick will score some points so it’s imperative that the Spartans get into the end zone as frequently as possible.
“It should be a good one. We’ve been practicing hard and doing really well,” explained Manthorne. “I know they’ll be ready for us and I know we’ll be ready for them.”