NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – King Philip head coach Brian Lee likes to keep things close to the vest. Coming into the season, many outside of the program expected senior John DeLuca to be the starting quarterback for the third straight year. Instead, on opening night at Community Field, DeLuca was split out as a slot receiver and junior Brendan Lydon was under center.
Facing North Attleboro on the road is not the easiest task for a quarterback’s first varsity game, but Lydon answered the call with 112 yards, the game-winning touchdown, and most importantly no turnovers. Thanks to a strong performance from Lydon, two touchdowns from senior running back Sean Garrity, and a typically smothering defensive performance, KP started its season with a 19-7 victory.
“He’s like a surfer or something,” Lee joked about Lydon. “He doesn’t really get rattled too much and that’s a good temperament to have and he couldn’t have played better on his first night.”
Lydon said, “It feels unbelievable. I just had to stay calm, cool, and collected and I knew the boys would get it done.”
The Warriors moved the ball well on its first drive, including a 26-yard completion by Lydon to Shane Frommer on a screen to the North 20-yard line. But, the drive stalled, as did KP’s second drive, which also ended up in Rocketeers territory until Garrity lost a fumble at the North 39.
After back-to-back three and outs, North finally got something going offensively and moved the ball upfield. Junior Chad Peterson hit senior Bobby Mylod for 21 yards on third and 11 to keep the drive alive and then hit Mylod again on a crossing pattern for a 15-yard touchdown to give the hosts the lead.
Another KP drive ended in North territory, but the Warriors got the ball back at the Rocketeers 26 when Frommer dove on Nick Rajotte’s fumble. It was doubly difficult for North, which also lost Rajotte to an injury for the remainder of the game.
Garrity made the turnover count when he took a toss to the near sideline and burst through a hole for a 26-yard score that tied the game heading into halftime.
“It was huge because we had some drives fizzle,” said Lee of the tying touchdown. “I thought Sean really set the tone for us tonight. We didn’t even know he was going to be our main dude until tonight and he was angry and he wanted the job.”
The Warriors started the second half with the ball and quickly went back to work grinding out yards with the running game. Alex Olsen had a 10-yard carry on an inside handoff to convert on third and short and two plays later KP took the lead. North got pressure on Lydon, but he somehow eluded the rush long enough to fire a strike downfield to Michael Mello. The 48-yard touchdown put KP ahead 13-7.
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“Defintely a lot of pressure,” said Lydon. “I don’t know…it was kind of a spur of the moment kind of thing. Swam the guy, threw it deep and Mello was there to get the TD. The greatest feeling in the world.”
North coach Don Johnson said, “I thought Tommy Reynolds had him and then the kid makes a good catch. The coverage wasn’t bad; we were there, so it was one of those kind of games. I knew it was going to come down to one play here or there, whichever team would make those plays and they made more than we did tonight.”
King Philip put the game away with a drive to make Lee proud. The Warriors moved 75 yards on 15 plays and ran out the remainder of the clock in the third quarter and the first three minutes of the fourth. Lydon found tight end Brett Mazur for a third down conversion, DeLuca (10 carries, 69 yards) ran the “Wildcat” three times for 25 yards, and Garrity finished the drive with a 12-yard rush up the middle.
“What they do, they do very well,” said Johnson. “They’re not fancy. They just pound it and come right at you. I thought the quarterback did a really nice job, so you couldn’t just sell out on the run.”
The Warriors were also dominating on defense. KP allowed only five first downs in the game and sacked Peterson four times. Junior Evan Rice, whose father played with Lee at Walpole High, had three of those sacks and two other hits that forced incomplete passes. Peterson (9-16, 59 yards) hooked up with Kyle McCarthy several times in the second half, but could not get the ball down field. Andrew Dittrich picked off a deep throw with a minute left to seal the win.
“That was part of the reason we didn’t get much going on offense,” said Johnson of the pressure. “In part that was good defense, but we had some breakdowns inside too.”
Lee saved special praise for DeLuca. He said, “You see what John DeLuca is for this team. How much of a competitor he is, what a winner he is, so you’re going to take a kid like that and ask him to move you’ve got to think highly of the kid coming in. It says a lot about John and how much he wants to win.”
The KP bench was all smiles as it ran through a tunnel of cheerleaders and fans on the way to the locker room. Lydon admitted that the Warriors felt under-appreciated coming into the season. He explained, “North is a great team, ranked in the top five to start the season…I guess we just brought it. It’s a great feeling and definitely a lot of confidence going forward.”
Lee added, “I didn’t know if we had it anymore. There’s new rules and football’s changing…they’re trying to make it something I don’t want to be a part of and then they come out tonight and they play it’s the way it’s supposed to be played.”
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