GEORGETOWN - Holiday plans can be tentative at best. In yesterday's showdown for the Commonwealth Small Conference title between Manchester Essex and Georgetown, a competitive game was anticipated, but it never showed up as the Hornets rolled, 27-7.
"We expected a close, high-scoring game," said Manchester Essex coach Mike Athanas, whose team is headed to the Division 4 playoffs for the second straight year and will face Boston City South League champ Brighton Tuesday. "We played well enough to prevent that on both sides of the ball."
Pat Orlando had a lot to do with that, throwing for 118 yards, running for 69 more, and intercepting Georgetown's touted quarterback, Joe Esposito, in the fourth quarter with the Hornets already leading by two scores. Sophomore tailback Brian Ciccone (104 yards) contributed three rushing touchdowns, including a 75-yard score, and had an interception as well.
"We were ready to play all four quarters against these guys, ever since we finished our last game almost two weeks ago," said Orlando. "I knew we were ready, but I thought it was going to be closer."
Orlando completed three passes of more than 20 yards, and all three helped set up touchdowns as the Hornets (9-2, 4-1) racked up 349 yards of offense. Georgetown's offense was limited to 159 total yards as Manchester Essex put the clamps on a mostly spread offense.
Esposito, who led the team in rushing this season, called his own number 18 times and gained 80 yards on the ground, and connected on 5 of 12 pass attempts for 72 yards but had three interceptions (two in the fourth quarter).
"They put seven in the box to stop our inside game," said Georgetown coach Matt Bouchard. "When we did get to the outside, we didn't make any big plays."
The Royals (8-2, 4-1) had just three running plays that went for more than 6 yards and averaged fewer than 4 yards per play overall.
The Hornets wasted no time establishing control, needing just one third-down conversion to march 79 yards on their opening possession before fullback Jack Bishop coughed it up on second and goal.
The Hornets promptly forced a three-and-out and used the short field to go 50 yards in five plays for a 7-0 lead. Orlando's 24-yard connection to Sam Cohen set up a 2-yard run by Ciccone four seconds into the second quarter. Cohen added the PAT.
On the first play of the Hornets' third possession, Ciccone went 75 yards to the house down the right side.
The Royals made it 14-7 before the half when Esposito hit Michael Ruh for 30 yards and Brandon Wade took it in from 5 yards with 47 seconds remaining.
The Royals converted two fourth-down tries on the opening drive of the second half before a pressured Esposito threw a red-zone interception to Ciccone. On its next drive, Georgetown reached the 31 but turned it over on downs when Esposito was stopped by linebacker Clayton Morrissey on fourth and 2.
"I think that if we punch one of those tries in, it's a different game," Bouchard said.
Orlando then threaded a 22-yard pass to Cohen, and took it in himself with a shifty 7-yard run to make it 20-7.
After Orlando's pick, Manchester sealed the win on Ciccone's 3-yard run with 3:25 left.