Jim O’Leary is the first to acknowledge he’s an offensive-minded coach. In two perfect seasons, Governor’s Academy has averaged 38 points per contest, while the defense has posted just one shutout — in the 2011 New England Championship game against New Hampton.
But in the lowest-scoring game of the O’Leary era, it was his defense that showed true grit, holding Lawrence Academy to only 157 yards of offense and two trips to the red zone as the Governors kicked off their 2013 campaign with a 20-0 win, extending the two-time defending New England champions’ winning streak to 19 games.
“There’s something about this place and the way these kids play football,” said O’Leary. “They play so hard all the time. Every single play they play so hard, and when [opponents] get close to that goal line, you just have to give them that look, and they’re not getting [the touchdown].”
Quarterback Tom Vailas was nearly unstoppable in the first half, picking up 143 yards of total offense and tossing a pair of touchdowns. The senior had a hand in all three scores on the afternoon, as he also rushed for a touchdown in the third.
Lawrence Academy’s best chance to score came in the middle of the first quarter. Following a turnover on downs at the Governors’ 29-yard line, a 17-yard rush by AJ Dillon gave the Spartans first and goal at 1. However, on fourth and goal, the Governors forced a fumble and recovered at the 2-yard line.
“Hats off to our defense, for sure,” said O’Leary. “I’m an offensive guy, but our defense really kept us in the game. That goal line stance was incredible.”
On the ensuing drive, Vailas found Ed Bettencourt over the middle for a 59-yard reception that brought the Governors into Lawrence Academy territory. Three plays later, Vailas hooked up with Dan Healey for a 24-yard score, giving the Governors a 7-0 lead 39 ticks into the second quarter.
Governor’s would score again before the half to stretch its lead to 14-0. On a second and 10 from the Spartan 46, Vailas scrambled right and threw up a pass as defenders closed in. The ball deflected off the hands of one defensive back, flew past another, and fell into the mitts of wide receiver Larsen Bidstrup, who jogged in for the easy 6 points.
In their lone possession of the third, the Governors burned valuable time off the clock as they ran 12 times during a 13-play, 84-yard drive. Vailas capped it with a 4-yard keeper up the middle for the game’s final score.
Nobles 22, Rivers 20 — Quarterback Ryan Vultaggio led the Bulldogs to an overtime victory after throwing a 10-yard pass to Deneri Noone, and then rushing in a 2-point conversion. Carlin Haymon scored for Rivers, but the game-tying 2-point rush failed.
Roxbury Latin 27, St. Paul’s 0 — Pete Cahill threw two touchdown passes for the visiting Foxes.
Middlesex 25, St. Mark’s 14— Junior George Morris and senior Hasani Figueroa each scored two toucddowns and visiting Middlesex opened with a win. St. Mark’s held a 7-6 halftime lead before Morris and Figueroa each scored fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Brooks 22, Thayer 14 — Chris Cervizzi ran for two touchdowns and Andrew Konovalchik one as the Bishops handed first-year coach Patrick Foley an opening win.
BB&N 16, Belmont Hill 10 — Senior Frankie Williams returned an interception 104 yards in overtime to cap the Knights’ comeback victory. After trailing, 10-0, Matt Bonazolli’s touchdown run and Jim Cochran’s field goal tied the game.
Groton 55, St. George’s 32 — John Beatty had five touchdowns to lead host the host Zebras. Sage Hill threw two touchdown passes for St. George’s and ran for another.
Pingree 35, Portsmouth Abbey 6 — Senior John Spears and junior Salvatore Fazio each scored two touchdowns for the visiting Highlanders.
Holderness 49, Tilton 24 — Ben Tessier and Ray Jackson powered the Bulls’ rushing game, combining for six touchdowns. Rian White ran for one score and passed for another for Tilton.
Phillips Andover 40, Loomis Chaffee 14 — Phillips Andover jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead to put this one away early. Ryder Stone had two first-half touchdowns and quarterback Ian Maag added a pair of touchdown passes.