LAWRENCE — Central Catholic’s version of “Thunder and Lightning” needed an adjustment on Friday night.
With Central senior Mathias Latham, of Salem, NH, — the “Thunder” part of the tandem — hurting his ankle early in the Central-Everett Division 1 quarterfinal, it was left to “Lightning,” Markys Bridgewater and a few replacements for Latham .
A week earlier, Latham and Bridgewater combined for over 200 yards rushing and five touchdowns as one of the best dual running back threats in the state.
While Latham stayed in the game and was a major force on defense, Bridgewater took over when needed most. He took a short screen pass and rambled 50 yards for the game’s first score.
Then in the second half, he broke through the middle of his offensive line and rambled another 72 yards.
“I needed to step up tonight,” said Bridgewater, of Lawrence. “It was my turn.”
In terms of filling some of Latham’s work on offense, Sean Mercuri and Preston Zinter did that job.
The duo only combined for 45 yards, but they ran for six first downs, five coming on third down.
“We are lucky to have some depth there,” said central coach Chuck Adamopoulos. “Mercuri had a hip pointer from a few weeks ago and he wasn’t able to play offense last week (against Braintree). We had a lot of guys step up like Mercuri and Zinter. We need that this time of year. It gets harder every week.”
As for Central beating Everett, 21-0, on Friday night, the score wasn’t really indicative of the game.
Everett had the ball inside the central 20-yard line on three different occasions, a few times plowing its way there.
But if it wasn’t penalties, a few poorly run plays for losses, and a fumble as a running back was about to score, the game might still be going on.
“We had our chances,” said Everett head coach Robert DiLoreto. “But we committed a few bad penalties, a fumble; you do those things against Central Catholic, you’re probably in trouble.”
While Everett has won 10 championships since the turn of the century, it hasn’t coupled the top honor since 2017.
Central wasn’t perfect either in the first 12 minutes. A long kickoff return to open the game and an 11-yard punt set up two long drives by Everett.
But Central survived both.
The key play, though, was Central’s Marcus Rivera who punched the ball out when it appeared Everett was about to score the game’s first touchdown in the second quarter. The ball went out of the back of the end zone, giving it back to Central.
Then Central drove 80 yards after that play, with a simple screen pass to Bridgewater, on second down, turning into a 50-yard touchdown with only 43.6 seconds remaining in the half.
“We weren’t very good in the first half, but we hung in there,” said Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos. “Our special teams hurt us, but we made a few plays. and then Markys makes the big play. To be honest, we were very lucky to be ahead 7-0 at the end of the first half.”
The second helped was a different story. Central’s vaunted defense played much better and tougher.
Though Everett’s first drive, 12 plays, had it on the central 2-yard line, fourth and goal. An apparent easy Everett score on the play was nullified by an illegal formation call.
Everett instead opted to kick a field goal. It was blocked.
Guess who made Everett pay for that gaffe? If you guess, Bridgewater, you would be correct.
Bridgewater again, out of nowhere, broke through the hole at right guard and he ran straight ahead for a 72-yard touchdown and 14-0 lead (Mike Ryan again added the point after).
“That was my line,” said Bridgewater, who has gone from college basketball recruit to college football recruit the last two months. “I just hit the hole and didn’t stop. It was awesome. I didn’t do anything special. I just ran.”
Well, he did run exceptionally fast. His 40 yard dash time has been recorded as 4.49. This dash looked more like a 4.3.
“We didn’t have a safety deep there,” said DiLoreto. “We weren’t going to catch that kid once he got through.”
The central defense took over the fourth quarter, allowing only two first downs, and forcing another turnover with Ty Cannistraro intercepting a pass.
Defensive lineman Jaden Wiggins had 11 tackles for Central, including four for a loss.
Sophomore quarterback Blake Hebert, who was 9 for 17 for 99 yards, added the game-finishing score on a 53-yard keeper. It was the second game in a row he ran a back-breaking long TD run to end the game.
“I’m very proud of the way we responded,” said Adamopoulos. “That was a very good Everett team we played. Blake’s touchdown was great because it was the first time I was able to take a deep breath. That was a great win for us.”
Next up on the docket is St. John’s Prep, which has turned into a twice-yearly adventure the last half-dozen or so years.
The game will be played at a neutral site, probably on Friday night.
“That’s the way it is,” said Adamopoulos. “Every week gets tough and tougher. We know a lot about St. John’s Prep. They are a tough team to beat.”
Ditto for Central.
You can email Bill Burt at [email protected]
Central Catholic 21, Everett 0At Veterans Stadium, Lawrence
Everett (8-2) 0-0-0-0 — 0
Central Catholic (8-2) 0-7-7-7 —21
CC – Marky’s Bridgewater 50 pass from Blake Hebert (Mike Ryan kick), 0:43.4
CC – Bridgewater 72 run (Ryan kick), 1:27
CC – Herbert 53 run (Ryan kick), 3:02
Everett: 38 rushes, 93 yards; Elleberee Kamarri, 20-36; Chandler Timoleon, 7-41; Christian Zamor, 1-(-4); Jaiden Williams, 1-(-15); Damien Lackland, 4-19; Jayden Prophets, 4-13; Brian Lamour, 1-3.
CC: 28 rushes, 206 yards; Hebert, 6-72; Jaxon Pereira, 1-(-4); Bridgewater, 10-95; Preston Zinter, 3-10; Mathias Latham, 1-3; Sean Mercury, 7-30.
Everett: Ellerbe 8-18-1, 93 yards
CC: Hebert 9-17-0, 99 yards
Everett: Williams, 1-22; Kevin Ruiz, 1-14; Giacobbe Ward, 3-20; Pedro Rodrigues, 1-11; Zamor, 1-(-1); Lackland, 1-(-2)
CC: Zinter, 3-19; Pereira, 2-11; Mason Bachry, 1-11; Max Frediani, 2-8; Bridgewater, 1-50.