WEST ANDOVER — Appropriately, Greater Lawrence junior Alvin Torres intercepted a pass to end the game Saturday afternoon.
It was the Reggies’ fifth interception of the day, and capped a 32-15 victory over Lowell Catholic in the Division 7 North semifinals. The interceptions keyed Greater Lawrence’s sixth win of the year and sends it into next Friday’s final against Manchester Essex.
Moreover, Lowell Catholic rushed for only 86 yards and passed for 126.
“Our defense really came to play today,” said Greater Lawrence coach Tony Sarkis. “I thought we had a really good all-around effort — defense, offense and special teams.”
But it was Lowell Catholic that got the better start on both sides of the ball.
The Crusaders stopped the Reggies on their first two possessions, holding them to a total of 3 yards and took a 7-0 lead on their second possession after Andrew Martin hauled in a 17-yard scoring strike from sophomore quarterback Ryan Penrose.
But the momentum turned on Lowell Catholic’s next possession when Franklyn Espinal intercepted a Penrose pass on the sidelines and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. It was Espinal’s first of two interceptions.
The PAT was blocked, leaving the Crusaders ahead, 7-6. But the Reggies took the lead for good, 14-6, on their next possession when electric quarterback Shamil Diaz (9 carries, 73 yards rushing, 122 yards passing) connected with Chris Tineo on a 15-yard TD pass and then ran in the extra points.
Lowell Catholic seemed to regroup and was driving late in the second quarter until Diaz made a diving interception in the end zone. Then, on the very next play, Diaz unloaded an 80-yard bomb to Tineo, who caught the ball in stride and continued for his first touchdown of the season.
“It was an amazing feeling getting that ball,” said Tineo, a 6-foot-4 junior. “I’m glad the coaches had confidence in me to call that play.”
For the day, Tineo had four catches for 116 yards.
“Chris is such an athletic kid, we wanted to get him the ball and get his confidence back up,” said Sarkis. “He’d dropped a few passes the last couple of games.”
Ahead 22-7 at the half, the Reggies all but put the game away with a four-play drive to open the second half. Diaz broke open for a 31-yard gain on the first play and scored from 13 yards out on the fourth play.
Kevin Martul kicked the extra point, making it 29-7, and completed the scoring later in the quarter — following Espinal’s second pick — with an impressive 39-yard field goal.
For Lowell Catholic, Nichols gained 90 yards on the ground and junior Danny Sullivan from Methuen caught five passes for 50 yards. But that was all negated by constant pressure from the Reggies’ front four, who sacked Penrose five times and certainly had a role in the interceptions.
The Reggies (6-3) will now be at No. 1 seed Manchester-Essex (7-1) Friday at 7 p.m.
Greater Lawrence 32, Lowell Catholic 15
Lowell Catholic (7-2): 7 0 0 8 — 15
Greater Lawrence (6-3): 6 16 10 0 — 32
LC — Andrew Martin 17 pass from Ryan Penrose (Declan Donaghey kick) 5:18
GL — Franklyn Espinal 35 interception return (kick blocked), 1:30
G: — Chris Tineo 15 pass from Shamil Diaz (Diaz run), 8:13
GL — Tineo 80 pass from Diaz (Maleek DeJesus run), 2:09
GL — Diaz 13 run (Kevin Matul kick), 10: 48
GL — Matul 39 FG, 1:39
LC — Ian Nichols 14 run (Donaghey pass from Penrose), :18
RUSHING: Greater Lawrence (29-132) — Shamil Diaz 9-73, Maleek DeJesus 14-55, Franklyn Espinal 1-2, Brandon Palmer 1-(-6), Amauris Gomes 2-8, Tiago Fernandes 2-0; Lowell Catholic (27-86) — Ian Nichols 18-90, Ryan Penrose 8-(-7), Sam Ortega 1-3
PASSING: Greater Lawrence — Diaz 5-10-0, 122; Lowell Catholic — Penrose 15-30-5, 126
RECEIVING: Greater Lawrence — Chris Tineo 4-116, Anthony Alves 1-6; Lowell Catholic — Nick Sawyer 1-20, Donaghey 1-(-2), Andrew Martin 1-17, Keenan Rudy-Phol 2-2, Nichols 5-39, Danny Sullivan 5-50