QUINCY, Mass. – Foxboro got off to a great start to Saturday night’s Div. 4 state semifinal at Quincy’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, but Duxbury rallied with 24 unanswered points and was on the verge of putting the game away. The Warriors got a huge spark when Rashaad Way snagged a pass over the middle and broke free for a long touchdown that cut the deficit to just three points.
After the defense held, Foxboro was right back in the game, the energy was back on the sidelines, and the Warriors were on the verge of getting the ball to start the fourth quarter. The punt wasn’t held and Duxbury took advantage of the short field for a dagger score.
The Dragons would tack on another touchdown in the fourth, pulling out a 38-21 victory over the Davenport division champions. Duxbury quarterback Matt Festa accounted for five touchdowns (three rushing and two passing) and more than 300 yards of offense, leading the Dragons to a Super Bowl berth.
“Everybody’s tried to do that (stop Dylan Gordon) and then we have to throw, which I thought we did pretty well, but I would have to say our inability to get to the quarterback and pressure him was the difference in the game,” said Foxboro coach Jack Martinelli.
Foxboro got the opening kick and put its explosive offense to work, marching 62 yards on 11 plays to grab the early lead. Dylan Gordon got the call on all but two of the plays, as the Warriors tried to set the tone with a straight ahead running game. Gordon had 50 of his 70 rushing yards on that drive alone. He punched it in from two yards and Sam Carpenter added the extra point to make it 7-0.
Tommy Sharkey made a nice play on the first pass from Festa and Gordon made a nice tackle on third down to force a three-and-out.
On Foxboro’s second drive, the passing game got involved. Tom Marcucella (13-of-25, 160 yards) found Sharkey for six to convert on third and four and then Gordon broke a 12-yard run on third and short to get to the Duxbury 34. After a loss of four, Marcucella hit Rashaad Way (six catches (120 yards) to the 18. A fumble forced Foxboro into third and 15, but Marcucella and Way connected again to get the ball down to the two, where Gordon finished it with his second score.
Duxbury’s offense got going on its next drive. Festa threw a strike to Matt Ciesielski on the far sideline for 32 yards and then hit Brady Madigan for 27 down to the Foxboro 24. After an 11-yard run got the ball to the 13, the Foxboro defense made a stand. Way broke up one pass and Dylan Kerrigan dropped into coverage to tip a pass on third down. Dennen Sullivan got the Dragons on the board with a 30-yard kick.
After forcing a three-and-out, Duxbury got moving again. Foxboro was struggling to get consistent pressure on Festa, although Kerrigan and Brandon Mazenkas-O’Grady both got into the backfield to force incomplete passes on the possession. On third and nine from the 11, Foxboro got some bad luck, as Ciesielski appeared to bobble the ball going out of bounds but the officials ruled it a catch and a first down. Festa would eventually go over right tackle for a six-yard touchdown that made it 14-10.
The Dragons would get one last shot before halftime but Lincoln Moore and Tony Sulham combined to knock down a pass and a final shot to the end zone fell incomplete as time expired. It was only a temporary reprieve, as two plays into the second half Festa (15-of-29, 259 yards) fired a strike to James Anderson on a deep slant for a 62-yard touchdown to take the lead for good.
“Their offensive line held us from getting up inside and putting pressure and the kid was accurate and has a great arm,” Martinelli said of Festa. “He’s the best [quarterback] we’ve seen this year, that we’ve played.”
Foxboro was struggling on offense. Another three-and-out gave Duxbury back the ball and Festa threw a perfect back shoulder pass to Madigan for 30 yards. On second and goal from the nine, Festa fired a pass to Ciesielski. It appeared that the receiver was unable to make the catch inbounds but once again the official on the sideline ruled it a catch and a touchdown.
“You make your own breaks,” Martinelli replied, when asked about the calls on the sideline. “We came out flying and then kind of ran out of gas.”
The Warriors needed a play to get some life back into the team. They tried a reverse to a flea flicker but Gordon was unable to bring in the pass on the sideline thanks to good coverage. Two plays later, on third and 10, Marcucella looked across the middle for Way, who managed to pull in the pass with a defender draped on his shoulder, keep his footing when he landed, and then shoot past the Duxbury secondary for a 58-yard touchdown.
It was 24-21 and suddenly it felt like there was momentum on the Foxboro bench. Duxbury got a first down on a nice catch by Chris Walsh but then the Foxboro defense held and forced a punt. The ball bounced inside the 30 and Way tried to be aggressive and field it to save a few yards of field position, but he couldn’t collect it cleanly and, despite vehement Foxboro protests, the officials ruled that Duxbury recovered at the 25.
Sharkey made a big play on first down to force a loss of seven, but then Walsh came up with a ridiculous one-handed, over-the-shoulder grab at the goal line to set up a Festa touchdown.
It was a back-breaker for the Warriors, who went for it on fourth and long at their own 33 but Marcucella’s scramble was a few yards short of the marker. Festa capped his night with a 15-yard score to seal the win.
“We couldn’t sway momentum,” Martinelli explained. “We couldn’t get it back. We needed a couple of stops and we didn’t get it.”
Foxboro (9-2) will travel to Mansfield on Thanksgiving Day in the season finale.