CAMBRIDGE — A year ago, Lawrence Academy had a boatload of scholarship offensive and defensive linemen, and the Spartans rolled through an undefeated season and NEPSAC bowl win.
But this year, it appears the beef in the Independent School League resides in Cambridge with BB&N, which pushed around visiting Lawrence all day in a dominant, 34-8 win to open the season for both teams.
"Yeah, I'm very confident in my guys," BB&N junior Sammy Malignaggi said when asked about his offensive line. "I believe in my guys. I know I'm going to ride for my guys. They're going to ride for me. I really thought we're going to do this every single week. We're just going to keep it rolling until the bowl game."
"We've got talented backs, but we've got a talented offensive line, tight ends, those sort of things," Knights coach Mike Willey said. "So they just really played well. They pounded, and pounded, and pounded away the whole game. Just a really good effort by the guys up front."
That group, led by 6-foot-6, 300-pound junior Zak Zinter, who just recently picked up an offer from Ohio State, paved the way for both Malignaggi (108 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries) and senior Zach Cyr (114 yards on 10 carries, plus a punt return for a TD) to eclipse the century mark on the ground.
And with starting quarterback and All-ISL performer Ryan Eamer out with an injury, freshman Shane Hanafin completed 4-of-9 passes for 97 yards and a 48-yard touchdown pass to Andy Elkins in the second quarter. Hanafin's efforts earned him the game ball from Willey.
"No, it's not serious, but (Eamer) wasn't able to go this week, so we just kind of held him out," Willey said. "The next guy up, Shane Hanafin, did a great job, really good job. Freshman stepping in. Obviously, Eamer's our No. 1 guy, but Shane stepped right in, and we'll take that day-to-day. Thank goodness it is nothing serious, which is good."
The defensive front, which featured players like Zinter, Tommy Maloney, Justin Albee, Jaden Young, Jack Elliott and Justin Moran, overwhelmed a much smaller Lawrence line. The Spartans had very little space to work, and only crossed into BB&N territory in the fourth quarter once the outcome was well decided.
On top of everything, BB&N showed well in special teams, as senior Chris Chen was perfect on four extra points, and drilled 38- and 30-yard field goals, with room to spare on both.
"We came into the week with a really good attitude knowing that last year they beat us on their home field," Malignaggi said. "We knew we were going to be in a battle, but I think we just took it to them. I don't think they were ready. I don't think they came out ready at first, so we just took it to them in the beginning, and just carried on throughout the game."
The Knights certainly looked sharper from the jump, even though penalties marred most of the first half. After Lawrence went three-and-out on its first possession, Cyr corralled the punt at the 50, evaded a few tacklers, found the BB&N sideline and raced in for the score less than two minutes in.
After the Knights fumbled on their next possession, they made up for it soon after, as Cyr's 36-yard run helped set up a 15-yard dash to paydirt by Malignaggi.
Hanafin then found Elkins for the 48-yarder along the Lawrence sideline to push the lead to three scores, and Chen closed out the half with his 38-yarder as time ran out in the half.
Chen added another field goal in the third quarter, and Matt Bulman bolted in from 3 yards out midway through the fourth as the Knights upped their lead to 34-0.
With mostly backups in, Lawrence avoided the shutout when Brady Martin hit Will Adam for a 21-yard touchdown with 23 seconds left. Martin added the two-point rush to complete the scoring.
It was a disappointing finish for Lawrence, but there were some positives, as sophomore Tony Muse rushed for 51 yards on nine carries, and linebacker Josh Arruda shot the A-gap consistently as the Spartans' best defender.
"Lawrence is obviously a great program," Willey said. "They do a great job every week. I think if we play well, I think we can play with anyone, and I think we played well today."