By Chris Thomsen and photos by Robert Marra (see a gallery of photos at his website)
After Swampscott’s first defensive stop on Friday night against Lynn English, it was clear that it remembered what happened the last time it played under the bright, intimidating lights at Manning Field on a Friday night.
Swampscott, in its second game of the season, faced a quick option offense when it played St. Mary’s of Lynn on September 12 at Manning Field. The Spartans ran for a total of 580 yards, scoring 64 points on eight touchdowns and eight two-point conversions. St. Mary’s attempted one pass during that game, which did not contribute due to the fact that it fell incomplete. Four of St. Mary’s touchdowns came on runs of 40 yards or more.
By the way Swampscott’s defense played against the Bulldogs, it seemed that every defensive lineman, linebacker, cornerback, and safety had each of those numbers memorized.
Lynn English’s first possession ended in three plays, when Jordan James forced a fumble on the Big Blue 15-yard-line.
After a Desmond Wilhelmsen fumble on Swampscott’s first drive, the Big Blue defense forced a three-and-out, until punter and quarterback Lucas Harris scrambled on a fake punt for a first down. The possession would end with the Bulldogs’ first touchdown of the day, when Lucas somehow completed a 34-yard touchdown pass as he was hit.
Swampscott did allow another Lynn English touchdown before the half concluded, but beginning with a key three-and-out just before the end of the second quarter, the Big Blue defense forced three consecutive punts. The only reason that streak ended was when a Harris pass was intercepted by Jared Dignan with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
However, Swampscott’s offense kept the Big Blue out of the game. The play after Dignan’s interception, Big Blue quarterback Brendan McDonald threw one of his own. It was McDonald’s third interception of the night, and after fumbles from running backs Desmond Wilhelmsen and James, Swampscott missed too many opportunities to get back into the game.
Harris threw for three touchdowns for Lynn English, and one of McDonald’s interceptions was returned for a touchdown as the Big Blue offense struggled to capitalize on its opportunities, losing 27-14.
It was almost as if the offense and defense switched roles from their last game at Manning Field. While Swampscott’s offense produced while the defense had difficulty against St. Mary’s, Swampscott’s defense succeeded while the offense struggled against Lynn English.
Right after James’ interception in the first series of the game, the Big Blue offense began an impressive drive that ended sharply at the Lynn English 35-yard-line, when the football was ripped out of Wilhelmsen’s hands by the Bulldog defense. If Wilhelmsen held on, Swampscott would have had another first down.
After Lynn English scored, Swampscott began another drive that ended with another fumble, this time by Jordan James at the Lynn English 32-yard-line. The Big Blue did not pass the Bulldog 19-yard-line in the first half.
Swampscott then began the third quarter with an interception on the third play of its drive. McDonald’s interception was then returned 39 yards for Lynn English’s third touchdown of the day, giving the Bulldogs a 20-0 advantage with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Although the Big Blue did score on the next drive on a fourth-and-goal pass from McDonald to Christian Llorente, Swampscott did not score again until the 2:48 mark in the fourth quarter. Two more McDonald interceptions, along with a turnover on downs, prevented Swampscott from taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the defense before it was too late.
Peabody football head coach Mark Bettencourt said it best after his team lost to the Bulldogs earlier this season: “You can’t give the ball back to a team like Lynn English five or six times.”
The Big Blue has a bye week before facing the Gloucester Fishermen at home on October 19.