BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – In the last game of the league campaign, Franklin had a chance to clinch the Kelley-Rex division title with a win against North Attleboro, but the Rocketeers pulled out the victory leaving the Panthers worried that not only would the league title be lost, but also its playoff hopes.
A few hours later, thanks to results at other rinks, Franklin had its title in hand and a place in the state tournament.
Fast forward a little more than a month and the Panthers, who entered the playoffs as the lowest seed in Div. 1 South and with a below .500 record, took on top seed Duxbury in Sunday evening’s sectional final with a chance to return to the TD Garden.
Unfortunately for Franklin (12-10-4), its improbable tournament run ended at Gallo Arena with a 3-0 loss to the Dragons.
“We left the rink saying we’re not going and then an hour later alright we have second place and then an hour and 15 minutes later we have first place,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane about the turnaround that the Panthers experienced that night against North. “It was crazy. We made the most of it.”
The top seed got off to a great start, scoring within the opening two minutes and setting the tone with its speed and physicality. Todd Jones put the Panthers on the back foot right away when he split a pair of defensemen and then flicked a shot over the shoulder of Franklin goalie Ray Ivers.
Spillane said, “They were good. They came out fast, they were physical, we just couldn’t match their energy. We had six kids who couldn’t practice the last five days with the bug. It’s part of hockey and you have to fight through it, but it was obvious tonight that we didn’t have our legs to keep up with a team like that.”
Ivers was forced to make a couple of stops from close-range just a couple minutes after the opening goal, while the Panthers tried to get a foothold in the game. Franklin’s first good scoring chance came with seven minutes left in the first after Joey Lizotte stole an outlet pass and set up Shane McCaffrey in the slot but his shot was saved by Steve Pisani.
Brendan Sicchio followed up a rebound off a shot from outside the blue line and nearly stuffed it past Pisani. Sicchio then set up C.J. Spillane for a backhand chance in front that was stopped. Colin Hedvig nearly got the Panthers on the board at the end of the first when he dangled past a defender and forced a save.
Franklin carried that momentum into the second period and had a good start with three quick shots, but then Duxbury struck again. Ben Cheney fired an inch-perfect stretch pass to Tanner Smith and he sniped the top corner to make it 2-0.
“That’s a credit to that team because every time they had an opportunity to score, they scored,” Spillane remarked. “We were outshooting them…but they’ve got some snipers.”
Hedvig gloved an attempted clearance and forced a blocker save and Cam Cassella forced a kick save from the left-wing circle after he stole a pass at the blue line. Tom Tasker had a shot from the point redirected in front by Dan Magazu, but it went off Pisani’s mask and stayed out.
In the final minute of the period, Kyle Hedvig got a good look right in front but Pisani was able to smother. The Panthers turned over the puck off the rebound and almost instantly Duxbury was back on the attack. James Lawlor got loose on the quick break out and he beat Ivers (21 saves) to make it 3-0. It was a deflating goal for the Panthers to give up.
“When you playing at not-100 percent, the safe play is to chip it out and that’s what we were doing,” said Spillane. “We didn’t carry the puck, we didn’t make plays or passes, it was all chip, chip, chip, chip and we just didn’t have it.”
Franklin came out of the locker room for the third period with the intent of putting together a comeback, but the lack of healthy bodies took its toll and the Panthers never got going. Kyle Hedvig had a decent chance with a tip in front but Pisani got his blocker to it. Ivers made a good stop after Zack Stewart weaved through the defense.
The Dragons neutralized the Panthers in the third, limiting them to only six shots, and closed out the game to book its place in next weekend’s state championship.
“I thought we were going to get one early in the third and it might change the energy on the bench, give them something to fight for, but it just didn’t happen,” said Spillane.
He added, “It was a good ride. They showed a lot of heart and character. We knew what we had in the locker room. Our record may not have been indicative of that, but we knew we played some good hockey teams and we competed and we knew that we could run with anyone.”
DUXBURY, Mass. – For the fourth straight year, perennial Div. 3 powers North Attleboro and Duxbury squared off in the playoffs. After the Rocketeers dominated the 2017 matchup, on their way to a Super Bowl appearance, the Dragons were out for revenge in the South semifinal on Friday night at Raymond Chandler Field.
In a game between two strong programs that know each other well, the little things can be decisive. Duxbury converted two North Attleboro turnovers into 10 points, including the decisive touchdown with four minutes remaining, to pull out a 17-14 victory and advance to the sectional final.
North coach Don Johnson said, “When you get into these games against good teams, all it takes is a couple mistakes to swing it. They’re just too good to make those kind of mistakes against.”
The Dragons opened the game by spreading North out with multiple receivers and finding seams in the middle of the line for senior quarterback John Roberts (17 carries, 81 yards) and junior tailback Tim Landolfi (13 carries, 59 yards).
“Our guys were back on their heels a little bit because we were so concerned about the pass,” Johnson explained. “They throw the deep ball so well, so they kept picking us apart with some hitches in there. They get you in your nickel defense and then they can run the ball up inside on you.”
Duxbury moved the ball to the North 35, but on fourth down and inches Roberts’ pass to Will Prouty got caught in the wind and was knocked down by Ryan Gaumond.
North took advantage of the wind on its second play from scrimmage with senior Nick Raneri hitting Andy DeMattio on a wheel route down the North sideline for 38 yards. Raneri, who was also active at the start of the game in his middle linebacker position, then burst through the middle for 16 yards to the Duxbury nine-yard-line.
Three plays later, Brendan McHugh bullied his way in from five yards out for a 7-0 lead.
The lead was short-lived. Duxbury answered with a 11-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game early in the second quarter. Roberts (10-20, 126 yards) was 3-for-4 passing on the drive and also carried it four times, including the six-yard touchdown run.
North’s offense was dealt a blow at the end of the first when Raneri was forced to the sideline with a shoulder injury he sustained while making a tackle. Sophomore Matt Penta jumped in at quarterback, and got off to a good start with 26 yards rushing on his first two plays. The Rocketeers were forced to punt and got the ball back on a fumble recovery by Omar Jasseh but were forced to punt again.
Duxbury’s offense was also struggling and was forced into a three-and-out on a good play by Trevor Hewett and Ryan Clemente, who closed up the middle on a third down draw. The ensuing punt carried in the wind and Jared Penta was unable to pull it in. Duxbury recovered at the North 25.
The Dragons had to settle for a 26-yard Brett Souza field goal but went into halftime leading 10-7.
Raneri tried to come back in the second half and he split snaps with Matt Penta, but the North offense struggled to get any momentum. The defense came out of halftime determined to clog the middle of the line and put pressure on Roberts. Twice North forced a turnover on downs inside its own territory and Clemente was staring to assert himself at the line of scrimmage along with John Kummer.
“I think we did enough on defense to keep us in the game,” Johnson said. “Getting Nick banged up there, we kind of stalled on offense in the second half. We gave them the ball a few too many times because we just couldn’t move it on offense.”
When asked what the Dragons did to limit North’s production, Johnson replied, “They got everyone within five yards [of the line of scrimmage] and, you know, we’re limited in the passing game, so they can gang up on the run and outnumber you at the point of attack.”
With 7:34 left in the game, North took over at its own 38. Penta (6-15, 74 yards) tried to look downfield, but his pass was intercepted by Seamus Johnston. The Dragons made the turnover count thanks to a remarkable catch in the front corner of the end zone by Prouty, who somehow managed to snag possession while on his back after Gaumond got a piece of the throw.
The North bench was incensed because the Rocketeers believed Prouty had pushed off to deny Gaumond an interception.
Trailing by 10 points with 4:19 to play, North put together its best offensive series of the second half. Penta found Jasseh for 25 yards over the middle to the Duxbury 41. On third down and 10, Penta threw the ball away and was gifted 15 yards when Quinn Murphy hit him late. A 16-yard swing pass to McHugh and nine-yard keeper got the ball to the Duxbury 20.
A short pass got a first down but then a pass was dropped in the end zone, Prouty made a diving play to deny Jasseh a touchdown, and Penta was sacked back to the 26. Facing fourth and 18, the sophomore dropped back and threw a strike to Ethan Friberginside the five and junior dove to the pylon for the score.
“Penta is a promising sophomore,” Johnson said. “He’s got playmaker ability and he’s a tough kid. I thought he did a great job in the circumstances to get in there and give us a chance to win the ballgame.”
Tyler DeMattio made it 2-for-2 on extra point attempts to get North back within three, but his onside kick attempt was smothered by Duxbury to seal the win.
North Attleboro (6-3) heads into the non-playoff round next week.
Similar to a boxing match, the Tigers countered any punch that the Dragons landed with a blow of their own. In the end, it was a unanimous decision, 11-7, in favor of the Tigers.
Oliver Ames advances to the D2 South Final to play Hockomock rival North Attleboro.
The Tigers opened the bout by landing a big shot away, scoring four runs in the bottom of the fourth. But as big as the opening inning was, it was the other two innings in which Oliver Ames scored that mattered most.
Duxbury connected with a jab in the top of the third in the form of two runs, cutting OA’s four-run lead in half. In the bottom half, the Tigers landed a clean shot of their own with their second four-run inning, pushing the lead to 8-2.
And again, when Duxbury landed another attempt in the top of the fifth with two more runs, making it a four-run game with just a couple innings to go, the Tigers responded. The fifth-seeded Tigers quickly striking back for three runs, restoring a comfortable lead at 11-4.
“That’s something that we said is one of our team priorities offensively,” said Oliver Ames head coach Joe Abarr. “When we’re scored on, our goal is to answer back immediately. I know from being around the game that if you’re the team playing catchup, and every time you get on the board, and the other team comes right back, it’s a very uphill battle. I think that was something really positive about our offense today, they did a good job with that.
“We put ourselves in good counts to hit the ball when we needed to and we got a ton of walks that really helped us down the line.”
After Duxbury failed to cash in in the top of the first inning, stranding a runner at third, the Tigers took advantage of their chance in the bottom half.
Senior Matt Muir led off with a single while senior Michael Friel and junior Chris Pearsons followed with walks to load the bases with one out. Mitch Goulet brought in a run when he was hit by a pitch and Jake Erlich smacked a two-run single up the middle for a 3-0 advantage.
“That was huge and this time we didn’t take our foot off the gas,” Abarr said of the opening offense. “We were able to keep putting runs up there. The top of our order has guys that at any given at-bat can do big things. It’s nice to see them stringing them together consistently.”
OA starter Michael Mulrean (5.2 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 1 K) ran into a bit of trouble in the top of the third. Not only was he taking on a strong Duxbury lineup, an issue with the mound caused issues for both pitchers. North Attleboro starter Peter Cohen had a similar issue during the game prior.
John Roberts led off the third with a walk but was erased when Sam Reagan reached on a fielder’s choice. A soft line drive from Luke Eggers put runners on the corners and then the ump called a balk, bring a run in and moving Eggers to second. A passed by and a single from Charles Coon brought in another run, making it 4-2. Coon made it into scoring position at second but Mulrean got back-to-back outs on two pitches to escape further damage.
Arguably OA’s most important was the bottom of the third. After Duxbury made a move to get back into it, the Tigers landed a deflating shot in the form of four runs.
Goulet walked and took second on an errant pickoff attempt. Erlich drew a walk and Deveau, who tried to sacrifice them both over, ended up safe at first after his speed down the first base line forced a high throw.
Nick Zwerle delivered a one-run base hit through the left side and O’Brien brought a run home on a groundout. With runners on second and third, Muir roped a hard line drive to right center field for a two-run triple to give OA an 8-2 advantage.
Mulrean was picked up by some solid defense in the fourth inning. A hard hit high bouncing ground ball was picked up by Zwerle on the first base line for an out. After a walk, Muir nearly made a spectacular leaping grab at short. The ball fell down but the senior stuck with it and got the force at second. And Friel snagged a tailing line drive at second for the third out.
“This isn’t a knock on the facilities but that mound was tough, I saw it when I went out for warmups,” Abarr said. “I think both sides really had to deal with that adversity. You could see their guy slipping and sliding. And the way Mulrean pitches, he pushes himself down and really does land in a slide with his front foot. He was almost doing a little split at times. I have to hand it to him, he did a good job hanging in there and gave us a chance to win and that’s all we can ask for.”
A leadoff single from Reagan sparked another comeback attempt for Duxbury in the top of the fifth. Eggers and Coon both walked to load the bases with no outs. Pat Melampy singled in one run and Frank Tower’s sacrifice fly made it 8-4.
Duxbury loaded the bases again but Mulrean got a big ground out to third to prevent any further damage.
True to form, Oliver Ames responded to recreate a comfortable separation. Sophomore pinch hitter Jacob Levine crushed a ball to left center field for a one-out triple and scored on an RBI single from Pearsons. A single from Goulet pushed Pearsons to third after, after Goulet stole second, Erlich walked to load the bases.
It looked as though Duxbury had its second out when Deveau hit a slow roller up the first base line. But once again, his effort down the line forced a second of indecision by the fielder and he slid in safely at first and Pearsons came racing in to score.
“It’s stuff like that that you need in these games,” Abarr said of Deveau’s two hustle plays. “That was unbelievable, they were both great hustle plays. We said last night, it’s going to be tough for everyone, so don’t take anything granted, we have to run everything out. And I have to really hand it to these guys, I don’t think I’ve had to talk to anyone about not running a play out, which is awesome.
With O’Brien up, Goulet sprinted home on a wild pitch to make it 11-4.
Duxbury pushed back with three runs in the top of the sixth inning but reliever Tom Parker came in and eventually got the third out – a swinging strikeout – to strand runners at second and third.
OA’s Reid Latham inherited a runner at first when he came in to pitch in the top of the seventh. Latham got a strikeout, fly ball to center field, allowed a two-out walk, but closed the door on a groundout to second base.
“We were here last year, we got knocked out here [by a similar score],” Abarr said, the Tigers having lost 10-6 to Westwood at this point a season ago. “We battled back [in that game] but came up short. We’ve tried to work on specific things throughout the season. And these guys, from top to bottom, have done a tremendous job working on those things in order to get better.”
Oliver Ames baseball (16-7) will take on the Rocketeers in the D2 South Final on Saturday at 10:00AM at Campanelli Stadium.
The two teams opened the season against one another back on April 9th with Big Red prevailing 5-2. The Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh before North got the final out to secure the win.
“We faced [Nick] Sinacola, who is the real deal and their catcher [Zach DeMattio] is unbelievable, he crushes the ball, he’s one of the best high school hitters I’ve ever seen,” Abarr said. “Just thinking back, we had a couple of errors, we aren’t on time with our hitters. I’m hoping with two and a half months under our belt now, we’ll come in and give them a better game. I think we lost by three runs but they were just a step ahead. Hopefully we’re even now and have a good game on Saturday.”
You can add Duxbury to both lists.
The top-seeded red hot Rocketeers cruised to a D3 Sectional title, routing the second-seeded Dragons, 35-0, under the lights at Community Field.
It was the third straight year the programs met in the postseason, with Duxbury prevailing in the previous two contests including last year’s sectional final.
“We had a better feel for them this year I think, and the kids worked hard to get here,” said North Attleboro head coach Don Johnson. “This senior class, they’ve lived through it. They’ve lost to [Duxbury] the last two years, they put an end to our season. So our guys were determined to have a different ending this year.”
North Attleboro advances to the D3 State Semifinal and will play the D3 North sectional champion, which will be decided on Saturday afternoon between Lynn English and Tewksbury.
Big Red wasted little time imposing its will on the offensive side of the ball, taking the opening kickoff and marching 55 yards on 12 plays — all rushing plays — to take an early lead. Brendan McHugh (10 carries, 47 yards, two touchdowns) took his fifth carry of the drive in from three yards out and Geoff Wilson’s extra point put North up 7-0 with 4:04 left in the first quarter.
“I think the offense did a great job,” Johnson said. “We’ve thrown the ball a lot this year, Chad Peterson is a great quarterback. But we felt like we could move the ball against them [on the ground] and to beat them we felt like we had to have good balance. I think establishing that run game early made the difference.”
Duxbury’s offense — which averaged 30 points per game coming into the contest — looked like it was primed to respond, possibly setting up a shootout between the two sides. But after moving into North territory, the Dragons saw what could have been a touchdown dropped over the middle, and then a fourth down passing attempt ruled incomplete on the sidelines.
After focusing on the run on its first drive, North shifted to its pass game as Chad Peterson (6-for-7, 98 yards, touchdown) hit Mario Bresko deep for a 46-yard gain on the second play of the drive. Two plays later, Peterson hit Jonathan James in the flat and the junior charged his way in for an 11-yard score and a 14-0 lead with 13 seconds left in the first quarter.
“I thought we came out on offense and executed well, our defense played great too,” Peterson said. “I thought we executed in all facets of the game tonight.”
Once again, Duxbury’s offense moved the ball, this time with a 53-yard drive to get into the red zone. But on the 15th play of the drive, Dragons quarterback John Roberts attempted to throw into the end zone, but Bresko stepped in front of the receiver for the interception and touchback.
Between lengthy drives, North’s third drive of the game stalled in enemy territory and had to punt just as time expired in the first half.
North’s defense had one of its biggest stops of the game to open the second half, forcing the Dragons to go three and out and get the ball back.
The offense didn’t skip a beat though, rattling off its second-longest drive of the game to begin the second half. Peterson completed passes to Bresko and Devin Slaney on the drive and converted a third down with his legs. McHugh converted a fourth and short down, and three plays later, got into the end zone on a second effort to make it 21-0.
“That’s all we talked about at halftime,” Johnson said, “We knew we had to kick to them so we needed our kickoff team to do a good job and then we needed our defense to get the ball back in the hands of our offense, and they did it.”
“We had excellent field position all night, the kickoff team did a good job pinning them deep,” Peterson said. “When you know you have a defense like ours, it takes a lot of pressure off of the offense.”
As if that sequence – a quick three and out from Duxbury and lengthy touchdown drive from North – didn’t put North in complete control, the next sequence did.
On the first play of Duxbury’s ensuing drive, Roberts dropped back to pass in shotgun and fired a quick pass to his left, but North Attleboro senior linebacker Zach DeMattio stepped right in front and galloped his way for an 18-yard interception return.
“Coach Johnson has been talking all week about how us linebackers have been struggling against the past the last couple of weeks so we really had to insert ourselves into the pass coverage,” DeMattio said. “We knew that play was coming so I just turned open and he threw it and I took it.
“We’ve had the last two years in our memories, them beating us at our place two years ago, and then beating as at their place last year. We had our game plan coming in, we knew what we had to do and we just executed on both sides of the ball.”
Duxbury picked a first down on its next drive, but then went four straight plays without positive yardage and turned it over on downs.
“When you get to this point, you better be good on both sides of the ball,” Johnson said. “I was happy to see our defense step up there a couple of times.”
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Nick Raneri took over at quarterback, used an option play and raced his way up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown and a 35-0 lead.
Duxbury once again turned it over on downs and North Attleboro’s reserves, led by Luke Labonte (five carries, 33 yards), ran the rest of the clock off.
“I’m happy for them,” Johnson said. “We’ve had so many teams over the years that have been so close. Sometimes its just a matter of matchups. You run up against a really good team, it might not work out for you that year. So I’m really happy for these kids.”
North Attleboro football (9-1) will find out its opponent for the D3 State Semifinal on Saturday. Lynn English and Tewksbury kickoff at 2:00PM.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Trailing by 11 points with eight minutes remaining is a difficult hole to dig out of, particularly when you have only managed 22 points in the first 24 minutes of the game, including just five points in the third.
Even facing tough odds, the experienced Rocketeers started the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s Div. 2 South quarterfinal against Duxbury in the Ken Pickering Gym believing they could win.
“We came in really confident and we all knew in the back of our minds that we were going to get this game,” said senior guard Samantha Taggart, who scored a team-high 16 points. “We played them two years ago, and got destroyed, and it was really important to avenge a loss like that and to get back to the semifinals.”
Not only did North have its best offensive output of the night in the fourth quarter with 14 points, the Rocketeers also held Duxbury scoreless, tossing a shutout in the fourth to pull off an epic comeback and earn a 36-33 victory.
“I didn’t know it was a shutout until the end of the game,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “That just talks about our senior leadership. They’ve been a great group of kids who knew from the beginning who they were. They were going to have to outwork teams and today they did that.”
The quarter started with North trailing 33-22. Caroline Collard (10 points, 11 rebounds) knocked down a jumper off a Taggart assist to get things started. North put the ball in the hands of sophomore guard Julia Feid to create and she drew a foul and made one of two at the line to cut the lead to eight points.
The second free throw bounced away and was chased down by Liz Morehouse, who could not get her shot to fall. Collard snagged another offensive board and swung the ball back to Feid for a straightaway three that got the crowd starting to believe a comeback was possible with 6:07 left to play.
Emily Haskell brought North within three points with a long jumper on the far side and suddenly the whole atmosphere in the building was changed. North fans were fired up and it only got louder when Taggart took the ball the length of the court for a layup that made it 33-32 inside the final two minutes. Collard grabbed her own miss, got fouled and knocked down a pair of free throws for North’s first lead since it was 10-8 in the first quarter.
— Josh Perry (@Josh_Perry10) March 5, 2017
On the other end, Collard blocked a pair of shots, her third and fourth of the night, and grabbed the defensive board to get North back the ball. Taggart was fouled and hit both her shots from the line to make it 36-33.
— Josh Perry (@Josh_Perry10) March 5, 2017
On Duxbury’s final possession, the Dragons continued to struggle finding a shot. Lill Foote was forced to throw up a fall away that was rebounded by Morehouse and set off raucous celebrations on the North bench.
— Josh Perry (@Josh_Perry10) March 5, 2017
“They played some great defense, we just had to play better offense for one quarter and that’s what we did,” said Herber.
Taggart added, “Our morale was really down in the third quarter because they went on a run. We talked about how we had to step it up on defense and we did exactly that. Everything just clicked together.
“I don’t think we’ve held anyone scoreless, but we’ve come close. I think this was the best defensive stand of the season and in such a big game too.”
North got off to a decent start offensively against the tall, physical Duxbury defense. Taggart scored eight of North’s 10 points in the first and the Rocketeers trailed by just two. Collard scored four points in the second and North continued to hang around, trailing by just four heading into halftime, 21-17.
“That whole first half, Sam kept us in it and gave us opportunities to be in this game,” said Herber. “We’re not a bunch of superstars. We’re going to fight through as best we can.”
Things changed in the third, as Duxbury started to get into a rhythm by getting the ball inside to senior forward Nicole Callander, who scored eight of her team-high 11 points in the quarter. Meanwhile, North got a three from Feid (seven points) and a drive by Taggart.
The Rocketeers were down but not out. North showed the tenacity that has allowed it to go 8-4 since an injury ended the season for senior Ashley Ahern, who was the team’s leading scorer.
“With Ashley, we’re a smaller team but a much faster team,” said Taggart. “Now that Ashley is out and Liz Morehouse is starting, we’re a taller team so it changes that whole aspect of the game, but we still work together. It’s a new style but we’re coming together and making it work.”
Taggart reflected on her final game at the Pickering Gym. She said, “It would have been heartbreaking if we had lost, but to come back from being down makes it that much better.”
Herber could not contain his excitement after the game. He said, “These kids are always fighting. We’re the smallest team then we’re the team that can’t shoot then we lose Ashley and we’re down 11 to Duxbury…I’m so happy that I’m just babbling on.
“Now we get another shot at the semifinal; not many kids can say they’ve been to the semifinal twice in a career.”
DUXBURY, Mass. – With 8:34 remaining in the Friday night’s Div. 2 South final, Duxbury senior wideout Ryan Reagan made one of the plays that demonstrated why he will be playing at Harvard next fall. Mario Bresko had perfect position right in front of the 6-foot-4 receiver and seemed to have both hands on the pass until Reagan leapt and stretched out to pull the ball away from the corner and come down inbounds.
“We did good on defense, held them there and then you get the back shoulder fade to the big kid who’s going to Harvard and we had him covered pretty well,” said North Attleboro coach Don Johnson. “It’s just one kid making a better play.”
The touchdown put the Dragons, who some outlets have ranked as the top team in the state this season, ahead by three scores, but North refused to lay down for the final minutes. Instead, the Rocketeers sped up the offense and rallied with touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to close the gap.
The comeback eventually fell short, as Duxbury converted a third down that allowed the Dragons to kneel down to finish off a 26-19 victory at Raymond Chandler Field and keep their unbeaten season alive.
“It’s a great group of kids,” said Johnson of his team, which had its eight-game win streak snapped by Duxbury. “There’s a whole lot of character there. Certainly not disappointed with the effort by anyone.”
The North came out firing right from the start of the game, trying to put pressure on Duxbury’s senior quarterback Bobby Maimaron. Thomas Reynolds dropped Maimaron for a seven-yard sack on the second play setting up third and long, but the Achille’s heel all game would be the Rocketeers’ struggle to get the defense off the field.
On third and 16, Maimaron (16 carries, 85 yards) took a draw 46 yards down to the North 26. After the Dragons got the ball to the one, Maimaron capped the opening drive with a one-yard keeper to make it 6-0 (the extra point was blocked).
North did make a play on third down on Duxbury’s next possession with Nick Dean breaking up a pass to force fourth and 10 at the Rocketeers 49, but the Dragons faked the punt and Maimaron (17-34, 217 yards) hit Nick Gearin for 26 yards.
“Looking at all the films and they do that all the time,” Johnson explained. “Teams hold them on first and second down and all of sudden they’ve got some kid making a play somewhere. I think it all starts with the quarterback; he’s the key to the whole thing.”
Another third down conversion put the Dragons inside the 10, but North made a defensive stand. Nick Rajotte broke up a pass and Jay Loring pressured Maimaron into an errant pass on fourth down. The Rocketeers would not be able to do the same on Duxbury’s next possession.
Bobby Mylod and Hacmoni Cuevas combined on a 14-yard sack to set up third and 24, but Maimaron connected with Reagan (seven catches, 88 yards) for a 27-yard gain. The drive ended with Maimaron hitting James Miele for a three-yard score and in the process making history with his 113th career touchdown pass breaking the statewide record set by Natick’s Troy Flutie.
The Rocketeers’ offense was stalling, particularly on the ground where Rajotte (eight carries, 23 yards) was struggling to get room. “The run has been our bread and butter and that’s been setting up the pass really.” said Johnson. “It’s been the run controlling the clock and keeping the defense off the field and that’s what we weren’t able to do today.”
Duxbury tried to put the game away before halftime, electing to go for it on fourth and six from the North 48 with fewer than 20 seconds remaining. The move backfired as Cuevas stepped up with an interception and returned it to the Dragons’ 30 with eight seconds on the clock. North quarterback Chad Peterson (19-34, 269 yards) fired a perfect strike to Kyle McCarthy (five catches, 107 yards) to get North on the board at the break.
The Rocketeers had momentum going into halftime and the ball coming out of it with a chance to try and take the lead. After moving down to the Duxbury 29, Peterson was sacked by Brad Backlund for a 13-yard loss and then intercepted by Joe Gooley.
“That was big,” Johnson admitted. “I really thought that if we were really going to make a run for it then we had to get something out of that drive and we just didn’t.”
The Dragons capitalized on the turnover with a 10-play drive that pushed the lead to 12 points. Maimaron hit Reagan on a back shoulder throw in the front corner of the end zone for a three-yard score to make it 19-7.
The teams traded punts but then Peterson was picked off for the second time, this one by Maimaron, to set Duxbury up with a short field. Maimaron converted another fourth down with a three-yard keeper and then Reagan made his highlight-reel grab and it looked like the game was over.
North came right back on its next drive to go 72 yards in seven plays and used up only three minutes off the clock. Peterson hit David Engler on the far sideline, putting just enough on it to beat the safety, and Engler ran in for a 36-yard score.
Duxbury recovered the onside kick but decided to stick with its passing game rather than try to run clock with only five minutes remaining. Reynolds’ pressure forced one incompletion and Dean broke up another pass as North forced a three and out to get the ball right back. This time it was 80 yards in nine plays capped by Peterson finding Bresko for a 25-yard score, Peterson’s third of the night, to cut the lead to 26-19.
“He’s been tough all year,” said Johnson of Peterson. “He’s been in a difficult situation sometimes. We ask a lot of him. A lot was on his shoulders tonight and he stood tall like he usually does.”
The top seed was able to convert another third down to seal the win and lift the Div. 2 South trophy; Duxbury’s second sectional title in as many years.