Northeast’s Chris Zullo (311 yards, 5 TD’s) runs wild over Lowell Catholic

WAKEFIELD – With a roster full of freshmen and sophomores, Northeast Regional coach Don Heres knows he’s fortunate to have senior running back Chris Zullo. And on Saturday, Zullo had a season opener for the record books.

Zullo rushed for 311 yards and five touchdowns on 24 carries, while also adding a pair of conversion runs, as the Golden Knights piled up 513 yards of offense and 20 first downs en route to a 62-35 win over Lowell Catholic.

The score is a little deceiving. It was only a two-point game (30-28) early in the third quarter before Northeast turned on the jets and pulled away.

“Chris is a three-year starter for us and he is just the heart and soul of our team,” Heres said. “He’s been an all-star and has all the intangibles you look for. He represents what our team and school want to be.”

Lowell Catholic found itself in a two-touchdown hole before even having a chance to run an offensive play.

The Golden Knights took the opening kick and drove 65 yards in just seven plays with Zullo’s first scoring run and Devin Nieves’ conversion rush making it 8-0. Moments later, Nieves’ kickoff was misplayed and Northeast was right back on offense in the red zone.

Three plays later, Sam Lacombe (15 carries, 70 yards) plowed in from the one and then added the two-point conversion to make it 16-0 and the track meet was on.

A short kick following Lacombe’s score gave Lowell Catholic good field position and the Crusaders wasted little time converting. Quarterback Dylan Eld (10-of-18, 236 yards, 4 TD) hit Aidan Virella for 23 yards and then found him again for a leaping grab in the end zone to cut the lead in half.

Northeast swiftly answered as Zullo raced 35 yards for a score on the first play of the second quarte. It didn’t last long, however, as Eld and Shawn Nherisson connected on a perfectly executed out-and-up for a 34-yard touchdown on a third down play to shave the lead to 24-14.

Northeast’s ground attack, however, was nearly unstoppable as Nieves capped a seven-play march with a 39-yard dash off the left side to make it 30-14 with 3:44 left in the half.

Suddenly in need of a momentum-stemming score, Lowell Catholic got it in a flash as Eld and Nherisson hit on another double move route, this one accounting for 65 yards to cut the lead to 30-20.

A 27-yard strike to Virella (6 catches, 100 yards, 2 TD) was followed by a 37-yard completion and another big gain to Virella that put the Crusaders on the doorstep of the end zone. Eld capped the efficient 80-yard drive with a one-yard sneak that cut the lead to 30-28 with tons of time left.

A failed onside kick gave the Golden Knights the ball at the Lowell Catholic 48 and they proceeded to eat away at the clock, taking over six minutes to reach the end zone. Nieves did the honors with a four-yard sweep around left end to make it 38-28 late in the third.

On the next series, the Golden Knights defense rose up and put the shackles on Lowell Catholic’s offense to force a punt. They did so again at the end of the third quarter following a turnover.

Zullo added an 87-yard TJ jaunt down the right sideline and a 17-yard scoring scamper to put the game away.

“We are trying to rebuild the culture here after what’s happened the last couple of years,” Heres said. “But these kids are all hard workers and they show up every day ready to play.”

Lowell Catholic's Aidan Birella (1) hauls in a long pass for a TD under heavy coverage by Northeast's Niko Fronduto, left, and Isaiah Bueno. (Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)
Lowell Catholic’s Aidan Birella (1) hauls in a long pass for a TD under heavy coverage by Northeast’s Niko Fronduto, left, and Isaiah Bueno. (Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)


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