NORTH READING — He’s the other man in the backfield, the player that lines up next to record-setting Carl Lipani and only earns carries when necessary.
But when the Hornets needed big plays last night, C.J. McCarthy was ready for prime time.
The junior running back rushed for a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, and made a huge interception to lead the Hornets to a comeback 17-14 victory over Pentucket last night in a battle of 3-1 teams.
“C.J. turned it up a notch in the second half,” said North Reading coach John Wall. “We needed it and he was great.”
With the Pentucket defense shutting down area rushing leader Lipani — with just 30 yards on 11 carries in the first half — North Reading went to their other back to start the second half and he responded.
McCarthy struck first for a 10-yard touchdown, and three minutes later plunged in for a 3-yard score that proved to be the winning margin. McCarthy, who entered the game with just one rushing touchdown on the season, finished with a season-high 56 yards on 12 carries.
“C.J. was awesome,” said Lipani. “He worked so hard in the offseason, and you can see how hard he runs. When teams play me too much, he can definitely hurt them.”
When he wasn’t doing it on offense, McCarthy added a key interception and made eight tackles.
“That interception was crazy,” said McCarthy. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to catch it. It was a big win.”
Doing it for coach: The Hornets had to play last night without offensive coordinator Ed Melanson, who was in a car accident on Monday and spent much of the week in the hospital. Melanson’s father was there to accept the game ball, and Wall expects him back next week.