LYNN — Every time Swampscott senior quarterback Zack Ryan looked out over the line of scrimmage, he saw a sticker with his dad's initials on a teammate's helmet.
Every time he looked up, he knew his father was watching.
Just a few days after Mark Ryan passed away following a long and courageous cancer battle, his son Zack found solace on the football field. The Big Blue's starting QB threw two touchdown passes, ran for another and spearheaded his team to a 27-6 win over Lynn English Friday afternoon at Manning Field.
"I wanted to play for him, I wanted to win for him and we did. This season will be played for him," Ryan said. "I'll try my best out here, every time, for him."
Each of Swampscott's players had helmet decals with the initials 'MR' in honor of the elder Ryan, a 57-year-old fire captain who'd graduated from Swampscott High in 1983. His elder daughter, Sarah, was a field hockey star for the Big Blue, and the entire community has embraced the family in an uplifting way.
"It means the world to me," Ryan said. "I don't know if I could do this without my teammates. The support system we have on this team, it's absolutely amazing."
A week after being shut out offensively with Ryan unable to play, Swampscott (1-1) was vastly improved in terms of both yardage and points. Ryan threw for 127 yards on 12-of-22 passing, with senior Chris Ferragamo (63 yards) and speedster Elijah Burns (46) doing most of the damage.
Liam Keaney recovered an English fumble late in the first quarter, setting up a quick change and an impressive one play scoring drive. Ryan threw a dart to Burns for a 23-yard score.
"That felt great," Ryan said of the season's first TD pass. "I saw the safety high, baited him with a look left and with our best receiver, Elijah, over there that play is almost guaranteed."
Ethan Gee pounced on a loose ball as English (0-2) made it fumbles lost on back-to-back offensive snaps. Ryan scored on a 5-yard scamper on that drive for a 13-0 halftime lead; he extended it after the break by throwing a 4-yard slant to Nakeylan Davis for a commanding 20-0 edge.
"Zack came out firing. He was really really good in this game," Swampscott head coach Bob Serino said. "It was a really hard week, an emotional week. Things felt normal once the game started. I think Zack needed some normalcy and that's what he got from being on the field with us."
The Bulldogs got on the board late in the third quarter after recovering a Big Blue fumble. QB Dominic Papa went over the top to Edwin Castro for a 37-yard score, but the Swampscott defense tightened up and didn't allow much else in terms of yardage the rest of the way.
Junior Jack Hazell had a couple of sacks in a solid effort for Swampscott. Phillip Thomas also made some big plays stuffing the run and Ferragamo had an interception to make it a 3-to-1 turnover ratio in favor of the visitors.
"The turnovers were huge," said Ryan. "We played a really clean game all-around. It felt good to produce after we weren't able to do much last week."
Aided by a nice 17-yard catch by Nick Paradise, Swampscott ran out most of the fourth quarter with a long drive. Senior Jason Codispoti did a lot of damage on the drive as well, carrying six times and finishing it with a 17-yard score. He ended a big day with 103 rushing yards on 18 totes.
The Big Blue had never started 0-2 under Serino's watch and, by topping English for a second straight year, kept the Blydell Cup. This annual rivalry game is played in honor of the late Jeff Blydell, a popular youth sports coach in both Swampscott and Lynn.
Swampscott 27, Lynn English 6
at Manning Field, Lynn
Lynn English (0-2);0;0;6;0;6
S- Elijah Burns 23 pass from Zack Ryan (kick blocked)
S- Ryan 5 run (Aydan Wulf kick)
S- Nakeylen Davis 4 pass from Ryan (Wulf kick)
LE- Edwin Castro 37 pass from Dominic Papa (rush failed)
S- Jason Codispoti 17 run (Wulf kick)
RUSHING: Swampscott — Jason Codispoti 18-103, Zack Ryan 4-1, Elijah Burns 2-(-11) ; Lynn English — Jarvin Simon 8-49, Dominic Papa 6-16, Jordan Em 1-8, Edwin Castro 1-0, Lionel Rivera 1-0, Jaiden Rosario 6-(-5).
PASSING: Swampscott — Ryan 12-22-127-2-0 ; Lynn English — Papa 6-9-68-1-1, Rosario 2-2-0-0-0
RECEIVING: Swampscott — Chris Ferragamo 5-63, Burns 3-46, Nick Paradise 1-17, Nakeylen Davis 1-4, Codispoti 2-(-3); Lynn English — Castro 4-47, Mitchell Purter 1-19, Em 3-2.