AYER — After a nightmare season in 2008, the Ayer football team opened their 2009 campaign with a bang, bringing back some Panther spirit in a 27-14 drubbing of the visiting Hyde Park. The Panthers were buoyed by an outstanding performance by sophomore DaShawn Taylor, who exploded for 205 yards rushing on only 10 carries, three of which found the end zone.
“From where we were last year this is a vast improvement,” said Ayer coach Jamie Lamoreaux. “We have added a lot of depth. I couldn’t be happier. I think we are going to be competitive.”
The Panthers started immediately as senior captain Brian Wallace returned the opening kickoff 20 yards to the Ayer 40-yard line. From there the offense went to work, opening massive holes, allowing Ayer backs to rip through the defense. Taylor had runs of 20 and 10 yards, before Kyle Cherico carried for gains of nine and 14 yards. Sylvester Marshall gained four yards to the Hyde Park 4-yard line. The Panthers caught a break when they fumbled but recovered near the goal line, and on the next play Taylor bulled up the middle for the touchdown and an early 6-0 lead.
After the Ayer defense forced a three-and-out, Taylor again ran circles around the Hyde Park defense. On the first play, he tore up the right sideline for a huge 63-yard gain, only to be dragged down a yard from the end zone. He finished the job, scoring from a yard out to put the Panthers on top 12-0.
The visitors attempted to muster a drive on their next possession as they drove from their own 35 to the Ayer 30-yard line with a variety of runs, keyed by Elijah Smith, who amassed 35 yards rushing on the drive. But on fourth down, an errant pitch squelched the threat.
The Panthers wasted no time as Taylor broke a tackle and bolted for a 64-yard scoring run, with just five seconds remaining in the opening quarter. This time the two point try was successful as Cherico rushed into the end zone and the lead was 20-0.
After the teams traded punts to open the second quarter, Hyde Park started to move the ball. After a pair of incomplete passes, Smith fired a strike to Jesse Noel over the middle for an 18-yard gain. The Blue Stars overcame an offensive holding call and picked up another first down. They moved the sticks again when Smith completed a screen pass for 10 yards, but at that point the Ayer defense dug in. Nicholas Guthiel registered a timely sack, and a last ditch Hail Mary was batted down by senior captain Ryan Carroll and the teams went to halftime with Ayer in command at 20-0.
Neither team could move the ball on its first possession of the second half, and the Ayer defense shut down the Blue Stars on three successive runs, forcing a punt. The slippery ball squirted through the hands of the punter and Ayer recovered at Hyde Park’s 36-yard line. After a 5- yard penalty against the Panthers, Carroll connected with Marshall for six yards. On the next play, Cherico broke to the sideline on a 35-yard touchdown run. Cherico added the conversion kick to make it 27-0.
Hyde Park didn’t quit over the final 11 minutes of the game. They mounted a 68-yard scoring drive that was capped by a seven-yard touchdown run by Elijah Smith. Later in the quarter, Smith added a three-yard touchdown run and a conversion rush for the final points of the contest.
Cherico enjoyed a productive offensive game for the Panthers, rushing for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Ayer will return to action on Saturday when they will travel to Charlton to tangle with Bay Path. The opening kickoff is at 1 p.m.