HATHORN, Mass. -- Thursday's State Vocational championship game boiled down to two essential factors: too much Essex Tech and not enough time for McCann to prepare to give the Hawks a game.
Paul Lazzaro rushed for 196 yards and three touchowns to lead Essex to a 44-6 win.
The Hawks scored the first six times they touched the football, starting with a 64-yard scamper down the right sideline by Lazzaro on the third play from scrimmage.
McCann managed its score after an errant kickoff followed by a personal foul gave the Hornets possession at the plus-49.
"We've seen this team two years in a row, and they haven't let us down either time," McCann coach Bob LeClair said of Essex, which handed the Hornets a 42-22 defeat in last year's State Voc Small SChool title game.
Of course, "small" is a relative term, and McCann (student body 500) was at a distinct disadvantage going into the game against Essex (student body 1,128).
This year, that disadvantage was magnified by the fact that the Hornets' last game was Nov. 14, and they learned only on Sunday night that they had a reason to strap on the shoulder pads for three darkness-shortened practices. Essex, meanwhile, played two games since McCann's last outing, including last Thursday's Thanksgiving Day game, and knew from the moment it was eliminated from the MIAA tournament that it would be the top seed in the Massachusetts Vocational Athletic Directors Association's finale.
The rust was apparent early on as McCann fell into a deep hole before the end of the first quarter.
Essex needed just four plays to score on its second possession. This time, the big play was a 64-yard run by Alec Bolstad to get the ball to the McCann 19. Two plays later, Lazzaro was in the end zone with his second score of the day, and the Hawks took a 16-0 lead.
McCann was forced to punt for a second time on its ensuing possession, but a bad snap led to punter Nick Lincoln being tackled at the Hornets' 24.
From there, Madison Murphy ran the ball five times to make it 23-0 with just less than a minute left in the first quarter.
Then McCann caught a break. A short kickoff was returned to the 36 by Matthew Dellaghelfa, and a personal foul against Essex moved the ball into the Hawks' end of the field.
McCann took advantage right away. Dakota Bolte went 12 yards on first down, and four plays later, he went 31 yards for a score on his way to an 86-yard night.
After both teams kept the ball on the ground in the first quarter, they opened up the playbook in the second.
Essex scored its fifth TD on a swing pass from Jack Crawley to Jackson Leete that went for 57 yards. And McCann QB Mike Frerrar completed a 29-yarder down the middle to Adam Dufur and a 6-yarder in the flat to Keigan Case.
But after taking the ball from its 24 to the Essex 24, McCann's best drive of the night stalled when a fourth-and-8 run produced just 5 yards.
The second half featured a couple more completions for Ferrara, who finished with 53 yards through the air. But the only points after half-time came on a 69-yard march by Essex that ate up 7 minutes, 26 seconds of the third quarter.
Although the result on Thursday was not one McCann will want to remember, LeClair hopes the experience of an extra practice and another game will pay dividends down the road.
"We got out there to practice a little more," LeClair said. "And with [sophomore] Michael [Ferrara] at quarterback, it was try some more things, throw the ball a little bit more today. I probably could have done that other times during the season with him, but we didn't need to.
"So today we threw the ball, and I thought he threw the ball pretty well. ... So that was good. He just needed more snaps, more reps, and he got that."