HINGHAM – Moments after a 20-15 win over Weymouth on Saturday, Hingham High head football coach Mark Nutley was in a small huddle of reporters being asked about the team's defensive performance.
Mid-question, he glanced around.
“Billy, come on over," Nutley motioned without hesitation, insisting his defensive coordinator Bill Reardon join the conversation. "That’s the guy right there," he pointed out to the media. "You want to talk to him."
Even within the coaching staff, the hard-hitting Hingham defense isn't summed up by the contributions of just one or two people. And the same can be said about the collective cast of players that bring the scheme to life.
Several of them shined in Saturday's win. Senior Jayce Mellish had a sack and a fumble recovery, senior Ronan O'Ciardubhain had a sack and several tackles, senior Johnny Heffernan snagged an interception and senior James Schwartz put an exclamation point on the waning moments with a pressure of his own, which landed in the end zone and tallied a safety onto the final score.
Senior Brian Barnard, junior Gunnar Corey, senior Cameron Dobson and senior Anthony Fabrizio (onside kick recovery) also played major roles.
“These guys are a lot of fun to coach," Reardon said. "They’re smart, they’re tough, they’re disciplined.”
“They love playing defense. They want to be on the kickoff team and they want to be on defense. It shows at practice," Nutley said. "They’re getting after our guys, they’re getting after each other and obviously they get after the opponents.”
“And Weymouth is a good team so we needed multiple guys to be playmakers today," added Reardon. "Otherwise, we would’ve lost.”
Through three games, Hingham has yet to relinquish more than 15 points. In a statement win over Rockland in Week 1, the reigning Division 6 Super Bowl champs were held to 14. That was followed by a 49-0 shutout win over Arlington. Hingham has outscored its opponents 88-29 so far this year.
“We preach that we don’t need one hero," Mellish said. "We need everyone around the ball at all times: gang-tackling, wrapping up together, all stuff like that.”
The Weymouth offense found an opening in the first quarter, on the unit's second play, as senior running back Brandon Riley broke free for a 79-yard touchdown at the 9:31 mark and senior Liam Connolly was on the receiving end of the two-point conversation toss. The visiting Wildcats held an 8-0 lead.
After that, the Hingham defense cinched up the gaps and gutted out an 18-point run.
“I mean, I think we've got one of the best defenses on the South Shore. You’ve got Ronan in the middle (as a linebacker). He’s the toughest kid around, he’s really like a symbol for our defense. Right in the middle, the biggest kid with the tattoo, you know he’s going to go tackle someone every time,” Heffernan chuckled. “And our secondary is out there making plays and our D-line is out there every time too.”
Coming out of halftime down 8-7, Hingham set up for an onside kick – which it did on more than one occasion – and it was recovered by Fabrizio at the Weymouth 47. Two minutes later, junior quarterback John Nicholas flung it laterally to his right for Jeremy Aylward and the junior receiver looked deep for Dobson (three receptions, 77 yards), who is also cast as a deep threat on offense, for a 34-yard touchdown.
The trick play, plus a successful two-point try from Nicholas to Corey, put Hingham ahead 15-8 with 9:03 to go in the third.
“We put that play in for him earlier in the week," Nutley said. "Jeremy, we know he’s a baseball guy. We knew he could throw."
Aylward took over lead running back responsibilities after workhorse Will St. Pierre (14 carries, 61 yards and 1 TD) exited midway through. Aylward finished with 29 rushing yards on his 11 touches.
"The second quarter on, he just ran the ball hard for us. I don’t know what his totals were yet, but he hits the hole hard for us which is nice," Nutley said of Aylward. "He went forward every time, which is nice to see out of him.”
Junior quarterback John Nicholas was also valuable in the ground game (7 carries, 30 yards). In the third quarter, he converted a fourth-and-2 deep in Weymouth territory, at the 15, with a three-yard gain. The drive ended with a 22-yard field goal from junior Harry Bradshaw and Hingham led 18-8 with less than two minutes to go until the fourth.
Three weeks in and still unbeaten, Hingham was in a similar position last year when the team began 2-0 and alternated wins and losses the rest of its 5-3 season. The Harbormen host a much-improved Whitman-Hanson squad (2-1) next Friday at 7 p.m.
“The boys were saying last year, ‘Hey we’re 2-0’ and went into (a matchup with Weymouth in Week 3) and they took it to us," Nutley said, referencing last year's 23-10 loss. "We’ve just got to keep rolling – Whitman-Hanson is not the Whitman-Hanson from last year. I watched them play, that’s a good football team too.”
“There’s nothing better, especially for my senior year," Heffernan said of the unbeaten start. "It’s my last year playing Hingham football. 3-0, I can’t ask for anything more.”
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Stifling defense has Hingham High football undefeated