Low participation numbers have already had an impact on the Manchester Essex football team for the 2018 season.
According to head coach Jeff Hutton, there are 20 players in the program this season, and the team will play a varsity schedule. That varsity schedule, however, will feature a nine-game slate and just five regular season contests, meaning the Hornets can not qualify for the MIAA state playoffs, which requires teams to play a minimum of six regular season games.
The Hornets open up Friday, September 21 at Essex North Shore (7 p.m.). The program dropped the first two regular season games against Northeast in Week 1 and St. Mary’s in Week 2.
“A group of coaches, administrators and parents met recently to make sure we did all that we can to have a varsity team this season,” Hutton said. “We will be playing our league schedule and hopefully we can play some of those schools closer to our size in the consolation round and be as healthy as possible for Thanksgiving.”
The group’s biggest concern was the wear and tear that takes place during the course of a football season, and St. Mary’s and Northeast are perennially strong programs with strong numbers and a reputation for playing a physical style.
“The worry was playing schools who were a lot bigger than us,” Hutton said. “We're also the smallest school in the CAL for football, so we reached out to the rest of the league and they all know about our situation. It could be a tough season, but we’re going out there looking to improve every day.”
The Hornets have six seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and nine freshmen.
When the Hornets take the field against Essex North Shore they will be led by senior captains Jake Athanas (who was second on the team in rushing last year and is a four-year starter) and Noah Rawson, an interior lineman that is also a four- year starter.
Last year’s record: 6-5
Head coach: Jeff Hutton (4th season, 17-16)
Team captains: Jake Athanas, Sr., RB/DB; Noah Rawson, Sr., OT/DT
Top returning rusher: Athanas (104 carries, 788 yards, 9TD)
Top returning passer: Will Levendusky (6-for-10, 92 yards, 1 TD)
Top returning receiver: Adam Roy (3 catches, 47 yards)
Last league title: 2008 (Commonwealth Athletic Conference Small)
Did You Know?: The Hornets can not qualify for the MIAA playoffs this season because they're playing only five regular season games. MIAA mandates teams to play at least six regular season contests to qualify for the playoffs.
(does not include MIAA non-playoff games)
Date Opponent Time
Sept. 21 at Essex Tech 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 vs. Ipswich 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Lynnfield 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 vs. Hamilton-Wenham 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Amesbury 7 p.m.
Nov. 22 vs. Georgetown 7 p.m.