Georgetown Royals Football '07

Orlando, Esposito looking for edge in growing rivalry

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Wednesday, November, 21 By Nick Curcuru

Over the last few years, football fans have watched Tom Brady and Peyton Manning dominate the National Football League with their rivalry and individual performances.

This season the Commonwealth Athletic Conference Small has their own version of Brady vs. Manning in Manchester Essex's Pat Orlando and Georgetown's Joe Esposito.

The two junior quarterbacks will lead their teams atomorrow at Georgetown High School (10 a.m.) for their annual Thanksgiving Day contest, with the winner representing the CAC small in the Division 4 playoffs against Boston City South League champion Brighton.

"Pat (Orlando) and (Joe) Esposito are the two best quarterbacks in the conference," Manchester Essex head coach Mike Athanas said. "They can both beat you in many different ways and they are both team leaders."

Orlando says that the Georgetown signal-caller brings out the best in him and that he always looks forward to playing against him.

"It's fun playing against (Esposito)," Orlando said. "He is a very good player and we are both the same age, plus we are similar in the way we play."

Esposito holds the edge in the series after last year's 28-27 win over the Hornets. Orlando, however, captured the bigger prize with the CAC Small title and a playoff berth. This season, there will be no consolation as the winner takes both the head-to-head matchup and the CAC small title.

Orlando has compiled an impressive resume in leading the Hornets to an 8-2 record (3-1 CAC). The junior captain has done everything for the Hornets offense, compiling 1,535 yards and 16 touchdowns through the air, as well as 265 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

"Orlando is a great athlete who fits into (Manchester's) system very well," Georgetown head coach Matt Bouchard said. "Plus, he knows how to win a football game."

He doesn't just know how to win, he knows how to win with the game on the line. Orlando's heroics have led the Hornets to come-from-behind victories four times this season. He threw a late touchdown pass in wins over Lynnfield, Greater Lowell and Whitter, and he ran for the winning touchdown in a double-overtime win over Chelsea.

The Hornets captain says that his ability to make the big play at the end of the game has been his greatest success this season. Athanas points to his leadership as his biggest strength.

"Pat is the team leader," Athanas said. "He runs our offense and he makes big plays on both offense and defense. He is just a football player, a tough kid who knows what he is doing in every situation."

Not to be out done, Esposito has put together an equally impressive resume. The junior captain leads the Royals (9-1, 4-0 CAC) in both rushing and passing. Esposito has used the deceiving triple option to gain 848 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns to go along with 874 yards passing and nine touchdowns.

"Esposito is a very good player who runs the option really well," Athanas said. "He knows when to pull and when to hand off and he is shifty in the open field. Plus he can throw the ball just as well."

Esposito has done all of this in a different offensive system than he played in last year. The 2006 Royals featured a spread out attack that led to Esposito throwing for over 1,600 yards. This season the team runs more.

"Last season we were 60-40 pass," Bouchard said. "But at the beginning of this year teams were taking the pass away so we went to the run game, which was just as effective because Joe can beat you both ways. Now we execute our offense 60-40 run."

Intelligence is seen as Esposito's biggest strength. He has a big decision to make on just about every offensive play. On the triple option he must decide whether to keep the ball, pitch it or hand it off, because of this he must know exactly what the defense is doing.

"He does so much more than just read a couple of blocks," Bouchard said. "He has taken on a lot of responsibility and he has done a great job with it."

After the long wait of nearly two weeks, both teams are ready to get this highly anticipated matchup underway. "We are completely ready," Orlando said. "We have been practicing hard every day and we are prepared to win." The Hornets will have to be ready to shut down a high-powered and focused Georgetown team. Besides Esposito the Royals have plenty of other offensive weapons including running back Brandon Wade. The senior captain has compiled a team high 378 receiving yards to go along with 357 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns. Wade also handles the kicking duties for the Royals recording 33 extra points and a field goal.

The Royals also have a stingy defense that has allowed 131 points compared to the 270 they have scored.

"This is the most prepared team I have ever coached," Bouchard said. "If we do what we have been doing from game one we will be in good shape."

The Hornets do not want a repeat of last years game, and they think that they will be much more prepared due to the magnitude of the game.

"Last year we weren't as focused as we should have been because we had already clinched a playoff berth." Orlando said. "We will be focused this year because we know everything is on the line."

The Hornets will rely on their high-powered offense that has put up 270 points this season, good for 27 points per game. Leading the way will be the quarterback and receiver duo of Orlando and Sam Cohen (669 receiving yards 9 touchdowns). Brian Ciccone and Jack Bishop will power the Hornets rushing attack.

Manchester Essex will also get a big boost on defense, as injured linebacker Bishop will be able to play on the defensive side of the ball for the first time in six weeks.

"This is a big football game with two big time football teams," Athanas said. "We have to know our assignments on defense, play physical and tackle, if we do that I like our chances. But it always comes down to who makes the most plays and who executes the best."

Keys to Victory

Manchester Essex

  1. Gang tackle - The Hornets have had some tackling problems this season, they must get to the ball carrier with numbers and bring him down early to slow down the Georgetown offense.

  2. Control the clock - The Hornets want to keep the Royals offense off the field, and they will have to do that with an effective running game. Everybody knows Manchester Essex will throw, but the Hornets rushing attack could be the difference in the game.

  3. Stay composed in all situations - This is the area where the Hornets have thrived all season and have the biggest advantage over their counterparts. No matter how close the game is the Hornets have had the composure to put anything negative behind them and come away with a win. They will have to do this in what looks to be a close game tomorrow.


  1. Keep the Hornets guessing - The Royals have an equally effective running and passing game, they need to mix the two effectively to keep the Hornets off balance.

  2. Keep Pat Orlando in the pocket - Orlando is at his best when he can scramble, the Royals need to corral him and prevent him from getting outside and making a big play either on his feet or with his arm.

  3. Be aggressive - In addition to keeping Orlando in the pocket, they must get pressure on him as well and make him get rid of the ball. Most of the Hornets success on offense this season has come on long developing plays and not quick hitters.

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