Reggies beat Whittier with 22 seconds to spare, earn state vocational berth
Thursday, November, 24
By Dave Dyer
ANDOVER — For more than three quarters, Greater Lawrence quarterback Marcos Ortiz resembled Indianapolis Colts backup quarterback Curtis Painter — shaky, indecisive and ineffective.
When it counted, however, Ortiz looked more like Peyton Manning, flawlessly directing an 85-yard drive in the final three minutes, culminating with a 5-yard TD pass with 22 seconds remaining to lift the Reggies to a dramatic 12-6 victory over Whittier Tech.
Ortiz’s heroics, the hard running of Cristian Rivera (26 carries, 124 yards) and a tremendous defensive effort not only boosted Greater Lawrence to 9-2 but qualified it for the state vocational bowl next Thursday at 6 p.m. in Braintree against Greater New Bedford Tech.
“It wasn’t a clean game, and that’s not the best we can play, but the kids stuck with it and I’m proud of the way we came back,” said Greater Lawrence coach Tony Sarkis.
The game didn’t start well for the Reggies. Whittier took the opening kickoff and marched 69 yards for a touchdown, scoring on a 46-yard trap run by Victor Munoz, who was all alone after breaking the line of scrimmage.
But from that point on, the Greater Lawrence defense hardly allowed a dent, giving up just 42 total yards the rest of the game.
The only problem was that Greater Lawrence’s offense struggled, too. The Reggies had just three first downs in the first half, fumbled the ball four times (three by Ortiz) and accumulated five penalties for 40 yards (11 for 85 for the game). Their 80 rushing yards were negated by the undisciplined play.
“I think the kids were a little too fired up,” said Sarkis. “There was maybe too much pressure on them.”
The pressure seemed to be weighing heavily on Ortiz, who was playing in only his second game back after dislocating his ankle in the season opener.
“I was pretty nervous and feeling panicky,” admitted Ortiz. “Coach told me at halftime to settle down and just be myself, that I was the best athlete on the field. That helped.”
The talk didn’t seem to resonate at first, however, as Ortiz fumbled the ball away on the third play of the second half, putting the burden back on the Reggie defense. But it responded once again, holding the Wildcats on downs at their own 30.
Rivera, who was held to 35 yards rushing in the first half, then took over. Benefitting from a roughing the punter penalty, the junior rushed seven times for 59 yards, taking the ball in from 17 yards out to tie the score, 6-6, midway through the third quarter.
Neither team could get untracked until Greater Lawrence took over on its own 15 with 3:34 remaining. Four Rivera runs (he surpassed 1,500 yards on the season) and an Ortiz keeper brought the ball near the 50, but the clock had run down to 1:02.
That’s when Ortiz really went to work.
He fired a beautiful 26-yard completion to Yamarco Guzman, ran for 6 yards then connected with Guzman again for 13 yards to the Whittier 5. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Ortiz rifled the ball into the end zone to junior Caige Nichols for the winning points with only 22 seconds left. It was only Nichols’ second varsity catch.
Among those playing well on the defensive side of the ball for the Reggies were Jean Garib, Daniel Ojeda, Carlos Aquino, Nick Sosa and John Augusta (fourth-quarter interception).
For Whittier (6-5), which bottled up Rivera for much of the game, Rudy Ortiz was in on 14 tackles and Jack Creesy made several nice stops. But the Wildcats could do nothing to stop the determined Reggies on that final drive.
W — Victor Munoz 46 run (run failed), 7:51
GL — Cristian Rivera 17 run (run failed), 3:29
GL — Caige Nichols 5 pass from Marcos Ortiz (kick failed), ) 0.22
RUSHING: W (23-83) — Andrew McGrath 7-11, Shane Surette 6-13, Jack Creesy 2-4, Scott Bonneau 3-1, Victor Munoz 5-54; GL (42-184) — Marcos Ortis 14-24, Cristian Rivera 26-124, Nick Sosa 1-8, Jonathan Montero 1-28
PASSING: W — Surette 7-16-1, 28; GL — Ortiz 4-11-0, 59
RECEIVING: W — Mike Nicholas 2-9, Munoz 2-7, McGrath 112, Creesy 1-(-2), Bonneau 1-2; GL — Yamarco Guzman 2-39, Caige Nicols 1-5; Jake Barchard 1-15