By Hector Longo
---- — METHUEN — Staggered and trailing St. John’s Prep, 27-0, at the half last night, first-year Methuen High football coach Tom Ryan learned a little bit about his new football program and the heart of the Rangers.
“At that point, I just challenged the kids to win the next play. Could we do that?” said Ryan.
His club answered the call in the positive, rallying back into the game and avoiding the ugly blowout. Yes, Methuen ultimately tumbled, 41-21, but ...
“Look, we fought. We fought and we kept at it, and that’s what you love to see,” said Ryan, whose club falls to 5-5. “Of course, none of that matters if we don’t go out and get the next one on Thanksgiving (at Dracut).”
The Prep, even without All-Scholastic Johnny Thomas, remains a pretty imposing force, even when its 189-pound junior Cody Harwood moving the chains and not the dynamic Thomas.
Harwood carried 28 times for 187 yards. When he needed a breather or the Prep called for a change of pace, it was Groveland sophomore battering ram Jack Lambert, who ran seven times for 55 yards and three TDs.
“We just don’t see power-running teams all too much any more, so this is a tough matchup for us,” said Ryan. “I had a feeling we might be in trouble at the line of scrimmage. And for the first half, we were.”
If you’re a Ranger fan, you have to be pretty enthused about what you’ve seen, especially last night in the second half.
Austin George-Williams hit a pair of early third-quarter bombs to senior classmate Evan Lacroix — one good for 75 yards to set up a score and the second, a 53-yard TD connection that sliced the margin to 27-14 mid third.
A much more aggressive Ranger defense sparked the flurry.
Ruddy Severino and John Maginnis each had fumble recoveries.
“It was good to see a totally different tone in the second,” said Ryan.
But Lambert and Harwood each had TD runs late to put this one away and complete the lesson for Methuen.
The defeat spoiled an unreal night for Lacroix, who was simply uncoverable in a 6-grab, 187-yard, 2-TD performance.
“Wow, what a kid! Mr. Methuen!” praised Ryan. “On both sides of the ball, he had an incredible night. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Willy Weinhold had a 1-yard TD for the Rangers, carrying 11 times overall for 56 yards. George-Williams clicked on 14 of 31 for the night, rolling up 242 yards and the two scores to Lacroix.
St. John’s Prep 41, Methuen 24
St. John’s Prep (6-4): 14 13 7 7 — 41
Methuen (5-5): 0 0 14 7 — 21
SJP — Jack Lambert 1 run (Josh Hilty kick), 5:41
SJP — James DiBenedetto 37 fumble return (Hilty kick), 3:15
SJP — Lambert 39 run (Hilty kick), 1:50
SJP — Brandan Kahari 31 interception return (Kick wide). 1:17
M — Willy Weinhold 1 run (Austin George-Williams kick), 9:58
M — Evan Lacroix 53 pass from George-Williams (George-Williams kick), 7:52
SJP — Cody Harwood 45 run (Mike Geaslen to Jake Burt pass), 3:36
M — Lacroix 28 pass from George-Williams (George-Williams kick), 8:52
SJP — Lambert 7 run (kick blocked), 6:04
RUSHING: SJP — Harwood 28-187, Pat McDermott 1-0, Lambert 7-55, Austin Carrigan 1-(-4); M — Willy Weinhold 11-56, Austin George-Williams 10-15, Luis Perez 1-0
PASSING: SJP — Geaslen 6-9-2, 81; M — George-Williams 14-31-2, 242
RECEIVING: SJP — Lambert 1-15, Owen Rockett 2-43, Logan Mahoney 1-14, Mike Calascibetta 1-3, McDermott 1-6; M — Evan Lacroix 6-187, Kenny Sullivan 1-12, Weinhold 4-7, Christian Monserrat 2-14, John Maginnis 1-12