Brendan Gleason is a quarterback, running back and receiver in Essex’s no-huddle, spread attack.
Add punt blocker to the list of duties for the junior co-captain.
Gleason’s second-quarter block ignited a roar from the Homecoming crowd, part of the Hornets’ rousing first half in a 40-19 victory over Mount Mansfield in a Division I high school football contest Friday night.
Gleason also ran for two touchdowns and tossed another score as the Hornets, after a 0-2 start, have rattled off four straight wins to rejoin the D-I playoff picture.
“After the second week, we had to look at ourselves and say, ‘What are we made of? What can we do?’ Gleason said. “I say now we are gelling together and people know what their roles are and doing whatever they can to do their jobs to make the team better.
“We’ve stepped up and we are rolling,” Gleason said.
Joey Robertson connected on 8-of-21 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, including a 66-yard rope to Cody Greene (three catches, 105 yards). Robertson also ran for 69 yards on 15 carries to pace a Hornets offense that took a 26-7 lead into halftime before wrapping up their fourth win in fifth tries against MMU in the annual Route 15 rivalry game.
Gleason’s block highlighted Essex’s big performance on special teams. But it also was another example of the Cougars’ miscued-filled night, their first three punts leading to Hornets’ points:
* On the first one, the MMU punter couldn’t collect a low snap and was tackled deep in MMU territory. Three plays later, Robertson hooked up with Jeremy Leclair for a 31-yard, opening touchdown midway through the first quarter.
* On the second, the MMU punter stepped on the end line trying to collect a high snap, leading to a safety and two points for Essex. After a lengthy return from Greene, the Hornets scored on their next offensive possession, Gleason racing untouched on a 34-yarder and a 16-0 advantage.
* And the third was the block from Gleason, who raced off the edge and fully extended to get his hands on the ball. Although Essex’s drive stalled, Zach Falls nailed a 34-yard field goal for a 19-0 lead at the midpoint of the second quarter.
“We had a couple of things we picked up scouting on special-teams situations that we thought we could generate a game-changing situation,” Essex coach Charlie Burnett said. “And when Gleason came up with that big block, that was a huge turning point.”
While the Hornets seized momentum early, the Cougars’ miscues were costly. And perhaps a bit of a trend: MMU has yet to win on Friday nights since moving up to Division I at the start of the 2010 season.
“That blocked punt hurt us, stepping out of the end zone hurt us, fumbling on the 5-yard line hurt us,” MMU coach Marty Richards said. “We made too many mental mistakes to win a football game. We didn’t’ deserve to win — they did.”
Marcello Mosca had a first-half TD run and finished with 72 yards. His younger brother, Dominic Mosca, completed 7-of-18 passes for 105 yards. Ray Wilson had a fourth-quarter TD for MMU (2-4), which has lost three straight games.
Phillip Wilson, on a 1-yard pass from Gleason, recorded his first career touchdown to wrap up the Hornets’ scoring in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets’ rotating nose tackles — Arthor Bosley and Nadeem Shedyak — were factors on the defensive line, disrupting MMU’s attack in its Double Wing T offense, Burnett said.