AYER — The Ayer Shirley football team has already equaled last season’s win total, and the Panthers enter the stretch drive with their sights set on finishing with a winning record.
Senior quarterback Steven Lawton scored two touchdowns and passed for two scores while leading the Panthers to a 48-0 win over Gardner Friday. The victory improved Ayer Shirley’s record to 4-3.
“It was a situation where we wanted to bounce back from a tough (loss) against Lunenburg the week before,” said Ayer Shirley coach Phil Marchegiani, whose Panthers checked in at 4-7 in 2016. “We wanted to execute and play well. We were fortunate enough that we were able to do that and stay healthy in the process.”
Heading into the final week of Central Mass. regular season play, Ayer Shirley is ranked sixth in the latest MIAA CMass. Division 6 power rankings. Ayer Shirley will host Narragansett (4-2) Friday at 7 p.m. Narragansett is second in the CMass. Division 8 rankings.
Lawton has done it all for the Panthers. Despite missing a game due to injury, Lawton has rushed for 507 yards on only 48 carries. Lawton is averaging 10.6 yards per carry. He has scored a team-high 12 touchdowns, one of which came on a punt return and another was on a kickoff return. Lawton has thrown two TD passes. On defense, Lawton plays safety and has made 51 tackles with two interceptions.
As a junior, Lawton compiled 2,078 all-purpose yards. He rushed for 1,147 yards and 13 TDs, threw three TD passes and returned three kickoffs for scores. Lawton made 70 tackles, forced two fumbles and had an interception on defense in 2016.
“He’s having another great season,” said Marchegiani. “He’s more polished. He’s a little quicker in terms of his decision making. Just what you would expect in terms of the type of leadership you are looking from a veteran quarterback.”
Lawton is joined in the backfield by fullback Jaden Hamilton and halfbacks Jimmy Robinson and Mick Mitrano. Marcus Fields and Lucas Sargent are a pair of sure-handed receivers.
Thomas Dentino and Mitrano pace the defense.