By Mike McMahon
---- — NORTH READING — North Reading’s offense ran for 334 yards, but it was the Hornets’ defense that was the story in a 28-14 win over previously undefeated Pentucket last night.
Blake Tamlyn-Hayden’s first-half interception was the first of three the Hornets were able to pull away from Pentucket quarterback Ryan Kuchar. Ryan Sanborn thwarted a fourth-quarter drive for the Sachems, up 21-14, and David Smith snatched an interception with just over three minutes remaining to seal the victory.
“Our defense came up huge tonight,” said North Reading head coach Jeff Wall, whose defense also forced a Pentucket fumble on the 3-yard line on the Sachems’ opening drive of the first half, setting up a 12-play, 97-yard drive that gave the Hornets the lead.
“We had a few games there at the beginning of the year where we were getting turnovers on defense and then that went away for a bit there, so it’s great to see them get back to taking the ball away and as you can see, doing things like that help us win games. Our guys have done a great job only worrying about ourselves and even though we’ve been struggling.”
C.J. McCarthy rushed for 219 yards on 31 carries and three touchdowns. Nick O’Connell scored the Hornets’ other touchdown on a 2-yard run in the third quarter. O’Connell, a tight end, registered his first career carry in the first quarter and finished the night with 47 yards rushing on 7 touches.
The win also snapped a four-game losing streak for the Hornets (3-4) after they started the season 2-0. Pentucket entered the game 5-0 after winning the CAL last week.
“These games take some years off,” Wall said. “I’m just so proud of the way we responded all week. No one gave us a chance against (Pentucket) and our guys knew that and it fired them up. We came out aggressive from the start and were focused.”
The Hornets dedicated the game to Sara Valenti, the mother of former Hornet wideout Eric Valenti who died after a six-year battle with breast cancer last month. Valenti was heavily involved with North Reading athletics while her children played there; Eric and his sisters joined the Hornet captains before the game for the coin toss and after the game, Wall presented Valenti with the game ball in the team huddle following the game.
North Reading 28, Pentucket 14
Pentucket (5-1): 7 7 0 0 — 14
North Reading (3-4): 7 6 8 7 — 28
P — Jeff Porter 20 pass from Ryan Kuchar (Nick Zaia kick), 6:18
NR — C.J. McCarthy 52 run (Angelo DiSanto kick), 5:02
NR — C.J. McCarthy 2 run (kick missed), 9:01
P — Porter 2 run (Zaia kick), 0:47
NR — Nick O’Connell 15 run (McCarthy run), 4:00
NR — C.J. McCarthy 2 run (DiSanto kick), 4:29
RUSHING: NR — C.J. McCarthy 31-219, Nick O’Connell 7-47, Blake Tamlyn-Hayden 5-25, Mike Cresta 3-19, Ryan Sanborn 3-15; P — Jeff Porter 14-54, Andrew Noyes 7-38, Pat Freiermuth 1-19, Steven Johansson 1-7, Darren Engelke 2-2
PASSING: NR — Ryan Sanborn 1-1-0 45; Nick O’Connell 0-1-0 0; P — Ryan Kuchar 3-13-3 78
RECEIVING: NR — Mike Cresta 1-45; P — Jeff Porter 2-61, Liam Corkery 1-17