ANDOVER – Very few area teams habitually share the rushing wealth as much as Whittier. But even the Wildcats know how to ride a hot back.
Jesus Sanchez handled the bulk of Whittier’s offensive load yesterday morning as the Wildcats opened Commonwealth Conference play with a convincing 43-20 victory over Greater Lawrence.
It was Whittier’s first victory over its conference rival — and Thanksgiving Day game foe — since a 28-18 win in 2009.
“It feels good to know we beat them finally,” said the 5-foot-6 Sanchez, who ran for four of Whittier’s six touchdowns. “We’ll meet them again on Thanksgiving, but this one means a little bit more.”
The day meant a lot to Sanchez, who finished with 143 yards. Until his final carry of the game midway through the fourth, Sanchez had 17 of Whittier’s 23 rushing attempts and 17 of the team’s 32 plays overall.
“We practiced that all week,” said Sanchez, who now has 457 yards and six touchdowns on 57 carries through four games. “It was just running and pounding the ball right up the middle. It feels good, and you just want to keep doing it again and again. That’s all we kept doing.”
Sanchez opened the scoring with runs of 14 and 6 yards in the first period. He added a 5-yarder midway through the second for a 30-6 lead before capping his big day with a tackle-breaking, 31-yarder with 5:33 left in the third for Whittier’s final touchdown.
“When you have a Sanchez, you look for him early and you look for him often,” Whittier coach Kevin Bradley said. “He’s the type of person that can make many great things happen out there.
“A good example was there was a play we had everyone blocking to the left and somehow he took off right like a shotgun and got like 15 yards. I thought, ‘Geez, we couldn’t draw that up any better,’ and he did it all on his own because everyone was blocking the other way.”
Whittier (3-1) also got touchdowns from Sidney Taylor, who caught a 14-yard pass from Connor Bradley, and Scott Bonneau, who had a highlight-reel 70-yard punt return that put the Wildcats ahead 37-6 with 2:24 left in the opening half.
“It’s been awhile since we beat them,” Bradley said. “But the main thing is we played our first league game, and we wanted to set the tone right away.”
Although the Reggies (1-3) managed only 18 yards on 18 rushing attempts against a stout Whittier front, they did find yards through the air.
Angel Martin caught a 12-yard pass from Ellicen Pena before throwing a 40-yarder to Anthony Vasquez 62 seconds before intermission. Pena and Vasquez hooked up on a slick 58-yard touchdown midway through the fourth for the game’s final score.
“I think offensively we’re going to take baby steps with these young guys,” Greater Lawrence coach Tony Sarkis said. “We’re looking for these young guys to get better. ... We have to be patient.”
Whittier 43, Greater Lawrence 20
Whittier (3-1, 1-0): 22 15 6 0 — 43
Greater Lawrence (1-3, 0-1): 0 12 0 8 — 20
W — Jesus Sanchez 14 run (Scott Bonneau run) 7:59
W — Sanchez 6 run (Bonneau pass from Connor Bradley) 2:52
W — Sidney Taylor 14 pass from Bradley (run failed) 0:32
GL — Angel Martin 12 pass from Ellicen Pena (run failed) 7:46
W — Sanchez 5 run (Taylor run) 4:36
W — Bonneau 70 punt return (Ralph Francesconi kick) 2:25
GL — Anthony Vasquez 40 pass from Martin (pass failed) 1:02
W — Sanchez 31 run (kick failed) 5:33
GL — Vasquez 58-pass from Pena (Martin pass from Pena) 5:15
RUSHING: Whittier (36-209) — Sanchez 17-143, Aifuwa Asemota 6-23, Bonneau 2-16, Bradley 2-7, Mitchell Censullo 1-5, Joshua Barton 2-5, Zach Zullo 1-4, Marcus Cellamare 1-4, Taylor 1-1, Shane Mambro 1-1, Corey Gauthier 1-0, Tyler L’Italien 1-0; GL (18-18) — Vasquez 12-30, Isaiah Roman 1-2, Pena 5-(-14)
PASSING: Whittier — Bradley 4-9-76 (0 interceptions); GL (11-23-172, 2) — Pena 10-22-132 (2 interceptions), Martin 1-1-40
RECEIVING: Whittier — Taylor 4-76; GL — Joseph Pagan 3-31, Vasquez 2-98, Martin 2-28, Roman 2-11, Yoel Batista 2-4