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Lawrence Academy brings home the NEPSAC's Hugh Caldera Bowl
|Click the pic to watch the celebration.|
Easthampton, MA -- On the scoreboard, it came down to one point. But if you ask Paul Zukauskas what amounted to the difference on Saturday, it was simple - love.
"They love the game of football," said Zukauskas of his Hugh Caldera Bowl champion Spartans, who defeated the Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, MA, on Saturday afternoon. "They wanted to win and they cared about each other.
"You can win football games that way."
That much is certain, as Lawrence Academy's 35-34 win in the NEPSAC championship game raised their record to 8-1. But, and as the score indicated, it wasn't easy, even though the score at the half was 27-0.
"You saw a game that was really hard fought on both sides; they're a really talented team," said Zukauskas of Williston . "They were 7-1 like we were 7-1 and they had some very talented players and they responded very well.
"I think we came out flat...and that happens a lot in sports when you get a big lead and all-of-a-sudden you don't play the same way."
However, the first half was all LA, as touchdowns from A.J. Dillon '17, Jake Cassidy '16, and two from Tim Preston '15 put the Spartans into a comfortable position; too comfortable, in fact.
But despite Williston's valiant comeback, LA was able to stage a late comeback of their own after they fell behind 28-27 with 1:41 remaining in the third quarter.
"You guys responded," said Zukauskas to his team in the post game huddle. "It's a game of momentum; they had the momentum and we kept fighting."
But Preston did it again, and the Spartans converted the two-point conversion to regain the lead for good as Williston failed to convert on a conversion of their own after making it 35-34.
"You never look back," said Zukauskas to his team, post game. "You always go forward and you keep working.
"Good things happen when you have a good attitude and you work hard. I'm so proud of you guys.
"You're an outstanding group."
And a major part of that group was a cadre of seniors, who had grown and matured under Coach Z's tutelage these past four years.
| Click the pic to see football's return to campus.
"Williston put in an amazing effort. But to see the work that our kids put in, to see they way they responded in pressure - that's a well coached team and that's a well-led team," said Head of School Dan Scheibe, who traversed Massachusetts with Spartan Nation on Saturday afternoon. "A big tribute to the seniors and a huge tribute to the coaching staff, particularly Coach Zukauskas."
In the end, though, the head coach said it was the players themselves who should garner the most praise.
"Anytime you win a league and win a bowl game, you need leadership - from the players' perspective; it's more important than the coaches' perspective," said Zukauskas, who moments before had told his players, "I love you guys.
"Thank you for what you've given this school. Thank you for what you've given this team.
"Let's go have a great celebration."