Saturday, December 3, 2016

RECAP: Hanover Grinds Down Grafton for D3 Crown

Hanover running back Brad Rogers led the way with three rushing touchdowns.
By Connor Evans (@RonnocEvans)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- It was a great day for the D3 Massachusetts State Championship game. The Indians of Hanover met the Indians of Grafton at Gillette Stadium for what many anticipated would be an absolute grind of a game. In the end, Hanover walked away with the State Title, winning 21-0.

The first half was a pure defensive battle. Neither team's offense could get in a groove, while the defenses were pounding away. With the exception of one brilliant pass from Wyatt Shisler going 45 yards down the field, there were no flashy plays either way. Nobody scored, Hanover turned over the football on a fumble, and it was looking like a slow burner that could be decided by a field goal.

The Hanover locker room must’ve had some of “Michael’s Secret Stuff” in it from Space Jam, because the Indians came out like a different team. On Grafton’s opening drive, Hanover muscled up and stuffed them on fourth down to take the ball back. On the ensuing drive, Hanover drove the ball all the way down the field from the 50, and persevered past one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to find their way into the end zone in the hands of Brad Rogers.

The senior running back would ultimately take it in for six not once, not twice, but three times on the day. Following a pair of drives in which both Grafton and Hanover turned the ball over, Grafton would have an apparent miscue in which a high snap on a punt would lead to a turnover on downs on their own one yard line. Hanover then dialed up number 22 again, and Rogers ran straight up the middle for an easy score.

With only 7:00 to play in the game, Grafton punted the ball back to Hanover, and the ensuing drive would result in a 25-yard touchdown sprint from, guess who? Brad Rogers. Garbage time followed this touchdown, and the game was all but over. The last few minutes featured some last-ditch efforts from Grafton, but at this point, Hanover knew they had it locked up.

Takeaway for Grafton

The best season in school history comes to a bittersweet end. The school finally made that climb to a state championship berth, and definitely showed that they deserved to be there. They gave Hanover a scare.

“Every game, we find ourselves up early,” Rogers of Hanover would say after the game. “So it was definitely hard for us, going into the half 0-0”.

Not that Grafton was used to that either, what with their undefeated season and all, but not many people believed that the CMass team could hang with Hanover. I’d say they did a pretty good job of it for most of the game. To the Indians of Grafton, this season is always going to be remembered by the people of your town.

You guys had a magical run, and despite coming up just short on the scoreboard, you know that you fought your hardest day in and day out, and made opponents earn every yard. Great season gentlemen, best of luck to those returning, and of course to those heading off to college next year.

Takeaway for Hanover

There you have it, the perfect season!

To be a senior on this team right now must feel pretty good. No better way to go out than on top, and with a perfect record too? Man, I’m happy for this crew. Coach Chris Landolfi has a lot to be proud of. This is a great group of guys with a great group of support. What an outpouring of enthusiasm from the fans (see celebration video on my twitter).

Coach Landolfi after the game talked about his team's win.

“[Grafton] was so good defensively, we just had to pound them until they started breaking a little bit.”

In regards to stopping Ifeatu Melifonwu, who has been lethal all season, he said, “the whole game plan was try to contain him. He’s an unbelievable player, obviously. Our defensive ends did a great job. The whole defense played really well.”

“We just felt like ‘this is our last game ever, let’s go leave it all on the field,’" Rogers added. "And that’s what we did. We came out and executed.”

That’s the truth.

After halftime, Hanover played a nearly flawless game. A few penalties on one particular drive were a little sloppy, but they more than made up for it. The offensive line was absolutely dominant. They won the battle in the trenches, and it spilled over to the rest of the game.

The defense clamped down hard and they were able to finish strong. “This is the most amazing feeling ever,” said Rogers. “We worked our entire lives for this and we wanted nothing more than for it to end this way."

So there it is. The Indians of Hanover cap of their perfect season, avenging a state semifinal lacrosse defeat against Grafton, and winning in a dominant, yet classy manner. An absolutely incredible, feel-good story for the Indians.

Good luck to the young men who will return next year to repeat. Wishing nothing but the best for the senior class moving on next year.

Congratulations Hanover! Enjoy it!

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