FAIRFIELD — The Lawrence High School football team was looking for a challenge, and in Cony’s strong passing game, the Bulldogs got one.
Consider the challenge met. The Bulldogs intercepted Cony quarterback Ben Lucas five times and sacked the junior three times on the way to a 27-6 Pine Tree Conference Class A win.
Lawrence improved to 7-0. Cony is now 5-2.
“We forget sometimes that he’s a 16-year old junior. He’s going to make mistakes,” Cony head coach Robby Vachon said of Lucas, who set Cony’s single season record for passing yards in the loss. “He can’t throw six touchdowns each game, and they’re very good defensively.”
Lucas completed 16 of 34 passes for 188 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown pass to Tayler Carrier on the final play of the first quarter, but the Bulldogs did a good job taking away Cony’s short passing game. Lawrence played zone defense, with safeties Robbie Liberty and Josh Doolan deep, and linebackers focusing on containing the Rams’ screen passes.
“I think the zone secondary definitely was a big plus for us, because when they couldn’t hit the screens underneath, (Lucas) was forced to go down the field, and we had our safeties sitting and waiting for that,” Lawrence head coach John Hersom said.
Liberty had two interceptions, both in the first half. His first came on a tipped ball and set Lawrence up at the Cony 20-yard line late in the first quarter. Five plays later, Anthony Sementelli ran in from 4 yards out for a 14-0 lead.
Liberty’s second pick came with nine minutes left in the second quarter when he stepped up to grab a pass near the Cony 40-yard line on the Rams’ sideline.
“I saw (Lucas) rolling to the left, so I stepped up and took it,” said Liberty, who also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Spencer Carey to give Lawrence a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Doolan had two interceptions for the Bulldogs, one in the middle of the second quarter and one at the Lawrence 10-yard line in the game’s final minute. Sementelli also had a fourth quarter interception, setting up the Bulldogs’ final scoring drive.
Lawrence also held Cony to 14 yards rushing.
“They’re just very good defensively. They’re very good in the secondary. We really couldn’t get our screen game going. We couldn’t get our running game going,” Vachon said.
The Bulldogs had seven drives start in Cony territory, but after Sementelli (24 carries for 108 yards) scored on a 3-yard run with 9:15 left in the second quarter for a 21-6 lead, Cony’s defense started to hold. Lawrence didn’t score again until a 13-play, 54-yard drive in the fourth quarter ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Carey with 2:17 left in the game.
“We had good field position on a couple in the first half. We just didn’t get the chains moving like we wanted to,” Hersom said. “In the second half, we went to a two tight (end) formation, a little bit more to try to balance out their defense and just try to pound it at them. We were able to sustain that last drive to put it on the board.”
Added Vachon: “I think that was the bright spot, really, if we’re going to take anything away from this. I think our defense played great, especially with some of the situations we put them in. We can build on that.”
While Cony’s Chandler Shostak, the conference’s leading receiver, finished with five catches for 62 yards, the Bulldogs did a nice job preventing him from beating them deep. Xavier Lewis played press coverage on Shostak with deep help from the safeties.
“We just manned up Chandler Shostak and played good all night,” Liberty said. “We were helping him over the top all night.”
Carrier had six catches for 89 yards. On his touchdown catch, Carrier took a short throw from Lucas, evaded a few Lawrence defenders, then outran everybody to the end zone.
“They’re definitely going to be one of the top four teams and we might see them again. They had a great effort here tonight and we were fortunate to have that great first half,” Hersom said.
Eriq Stewart was in on two sacks for Lawrence.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242