In preparation for last Friday’s Division 4 South quarterfinal against Norton, one player in particular caught the eye of Apponequet Regional coach Robert Lomp : Mike Ready.
He was impressed with the senior quarterback’s ability to improvise and make plays with his legs.
On the game’s first series, calling on his instincts and composure, Ready converted a pair of fourth-down attempts and the Lancers capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run from Matt Hines.
It was the kind of play that the position demands, particularly for a team hoping to advance in the playoffs.
But after absorbing a blow to his upper body in the third quarter, shortly after Apponequet had opened up a 35-14 lead, Ready was on the ground for nearly 10 minutes before departing with concussion-like symptoms. He did not return, and the Lakers stretched their lead to what would be the final score, 42-14.
“Their best player got hurt,” said Lomp, after his squad improved to 7-1.
“The one kid we were worried about offensively was him [in a] scramble. I felt that their best play coming in was the unorganized quarterback run from the films I had watched on him.”
Ready is deceptive because he makes use of a strong accurate arm while using his legs.
Senior Nick Norbeck stepped in for Ready, but the Lakers, with quarterback Cam Costa, won handily.
In his first playoff game, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior produced 96 yards rushing on eight carries while directing the no-huddle offense.
“It was more on the line than a regular-season game, where you can always bounce back next week,” Costa said. “It was pretty exciting; I wouldn’t say there were jitters. We don’t crack under pressure.”
A “run-first” quarterback, Costa completed his only pass of the evening, a 40-yard connection.
Lomp said Costa is familiar with playing under pressure because Apponequet does not choose to punt on fourth down. The high-risk/high-reward strategy worked against Norton: The Lakers converted five fourth-down tries.
In its current four-game winning streak, Apponequet has outscored foes by an average of 38.0 to 17.5 points per game.
The ground attack produced close to 400 yards rushing against Norton, spearheaded by Costa’s audibles at the line of scrimmage and senior back Westin Cohen, who had three touchdowns, the longest a 40-yard run in the third quarter.
Cohen, also experiencing his first playoff game, said he was “pretty nervous,” but Costa’s demeanor had a calming effect on the team. He added that the work of the offensive line to protect the quarterback and establish the running game quieted any sense of doubt.
Ready’s exit also opened the door for Cohen’s group, which scored 14 unanswered points in the second half.
“We tried to put pressure on [Norbeck]. We thought that we could beat them.”
“It’s a tough situation,” Norton coach Ted Currle said. “You lose your quarterback who’s been 60 to 70 percent of our offense — it does take the wind out of your sails. You try to figure out how you can come back, but at the same time, you can’t stop them all night.”
Lomp said the next game, a semifinal matchup at Dennis-Yarmouth on Friday, will let his team know whether it belongs in the playoffs or not. He is confident, though, that his quarterback will continue to produce.
“Cam is certainly a kid that’s grown into a mature quarterback,” Lomp said. “He’s clutch.”
A growth spurt
Norton senior offensive guard/defensive end Tony Giglio arrived for Friday’s matchup against Apponequet with a grizzly black beard.
His hair had not been cut since Norton’s 28-13 loss to Medway in the third week of the season, Sept. 27.
“I was going to get a haircut,” Giglio said. “And then I thought to myself, I haven’t shaved this since we last lost, so I think I’m gonna keep it. I started telling people on the team and they told me, ‘Yeah, don’t shave it.’ ”
Giglio compared himself to a pepper-bearded Santa Claus and said that the hair doubles as a way to signify his age. After Tyler White tore an anterior cruciate ligmament in a preseason scrimmage against Taunton, Giglio was the team’s lone senior lineman.
The 5-foot-10, 160-pounder is at a size disadvantage in every head-to-head matchup, but he uses speed and technique to his advantage.
His biggest worry was being able to lead and teach a young group that is responsible for keeping the quarterback safe. Last season, he made the switch from running back to the line.
Coach Currle said that there are growing pains at times in regards to players’ inexperience, but Giglio’s work with younger lineman is “great for the future.”
“Bringing the team together as a family is the most important thing,” Giglio said. “Giving them rides to spaghetti dinner, talking to them about grades. If you see them in the hallways, make them know they have friends on the team and kids that will look out for them.”
Thayer notches win
Senior quarterback Jack Becker of Hingham fired a pair of touchdown passes as Thayer Academy recorded its first win of the season, a 21-0 shutout of St. Mark’s on Friday.
He also was not shy on the defensive side of the ball.
In his career debut at safety, Becker had two momentum-shifting interceptions.
“He’s a real ball hawk,” said coach Jeff Toussaint of his three-year starter. “He sees the field really well; he’s a great communicator, gets guys lined up the right way.”
Becker said opening up an early 14-0 cushion fueled his confidence and momentum in the win.
He added that he expects that energy to carry over to this week’s game against St. Sebastian’s.Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps.