By Jeff Hamrick
---- — TYNGSBORO — The Greater Lawrence football program prides itself on a punishing ground attack. So much so that the Reggies’ game program lists all-time leaders in six categories — each of them related to the rush.
That has changed, however, this fall. Yesterday, the Reggies may have turned around their season through the air.
Despite running 24 fewer plays than Greater Lowell, Greater Lawrence routed the Gryphons 42-25 behind the passing of Ellicen Pena, who took advantage of a defense that consistently had all 11 players within six yards of the line of scrimmage.
“They were playing up on us,” said receiver Yoel Batista, who hauled in six passes for 165 yards and two scores. “We knew we had to beat them on the (seam) route and go 100 percent, and that’s what we did. Ellicen threw the ball and we just had to go up and get the ball.”
In a wild first quarter, the two squads combined for 35 points. Greater Lowell, winless while scoring a mere 27 points its first three games, needed only 17 plays to take a 19-14 lead into the second quarter.
But the Reggies (2-3 overall, 1-1 Commonwealth Conference) were up to the frantic pace, scoring 20 points on their first nine plays from scrimmage. They struck repeatedly from long distance as Pena first hit Jeremy Torres for a 21-yard score before connecting with Batista on a 78-yarder late in the first.
The Reggies took their first lead early in the second on a 72-yarder from Pena to Torres. Both of the 70-plus throws came on seam routes in which the quarterback threw at least 30 yards downfield.
Greater Lawrence coach Tony Sarkis said, “Jeremy (who finished with 145 yards on his four grabs) just made some incredible catches there. All the (receivers) played very well and our quarterback grew in confidence, which is the most important thing for us right now.”
Standing in the pocket behind a solid offensive line, the 6-0, 200-pound senior Pena finished with 335 passing yards and four scores, and gave the Reggies the lead for good with a 10-yard toss to Batista with 9:38 left in the third.
The Reggies relied so heavily on the pass they had minus one yard on six rushing attempts in the first half.
Not to be outdone, however, running back Anthony Vasquez handled the final two touchdowns on runs of 10 and 1 yards.
Meanwhile, the defense buckled down after intermission as the Gryphons accumulated only 31 of their 245 total yards. Batista, Torres and Isaiah Roman each had an interception while a front led by Eric Rodriquez, Edgardo Garcia and Ramon Montas had 12 tackles for losses.
“Defensively, we settled down at the end,” Sarkis said. “They easily could’ve folded, but I think as a team we took a step forward and matured a little.”