Saturday, September 16, 2017

Lincoln-Sudbury Sends Message in Route of Holliston

By Brendan Hall (@BHallESPN)

SUDBURY – Whatever momentum Holliston had seized in the earlygoings of the 2017 season after an impressive victory over small-school power Millis last week, Lincoln-Sudbury made sure to vaporize that Friday night under the lights at Myers field

Last year’s meeting between these two MetroWest region stalwarts resulted in a 30-20 Holliston win that L-S coach Tom Lopez readily admits wasn’t as close as the final score would suggest. But in this year’s edition, Lopez’s Warriors thoroughly flipped the table on Holliston, dominating in all three phases for a thorough 42-14 victory.

“[Last year’s meeting] wasn’t even close. But this is a whole new team,” Lopez said.

And the Warriors (2-0) couldn’t have asked for a better start, getting short field position on their first two drives and converting them into 13 points. Harrison Gross (three catches, 100 yards, 2 TD) started the night off with a bang, blocking a Holliston punt – on a call that was meant to be a punt safe, no less -- on the game-opening drive for a first and 10 at the Panthers’ 21. Three plays later, junior quarterback Braden O’Connell (5 of 9, 145 yards, 3 TD) found junior running back James Dillon on a waggle screen for a 19-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead.

The next Holliston (1-1) drive, another three-and-out, gave L-S a starting drive at the 50 following a short punt. This time, the Warriors needed just four plays to find the end zone, O’Connell finding Gross on a waggle across the right seam for a 26-yard score and 13-0 lead after the point-after kick was blocked.

Gross finished up the first half having himself a blast. After catching the two-point pass on the next L-S score, a 33-yard Andrew from Andrew Marshall, Gross put the cake-topper on a dominant first half with a 41-yard score just before the close of the half, on a play Lopez admits being surprised to see work a second time.

The call -- a staple of any tried-and-true Wing-T team like the Warriors -- was a throwback, O’Connell rolling to his right on a sprint-out only to turn and fire to his left, where the Holliston defense lost Gross in traffic slanting across the middle opposite the flow of play, all alone for an all-too-easy score and 28-0 lead with just eight seconds to go in the opening half.

Considering this is a Holliston team that has been among the MIAA’s winningest this decade, the magnitude of a half like this wasn’t lost on the Warriors, who out-gained Holliston 222-35 in yardage in the first half, and converted 3 of 6 third downs compared to a paltry 1 for 7 mark for the Panthers.

Gross also played a hand in a stingy first-half defensive performance; the Warriors front seven led by Gross, Dillon, Mike Ciaffoni and Cal Kenney kept Holliston quarterback Ryan Benco all night, holding the Panthers’ typically-fluid passing attack to just 19 yards and their rushing attack to just 16.

In all, the Warriors out-gained Holliston nearly 2-to-1 in total yards (364-201), including a 240-149 advantage on the ground. L-S also held significant advantages in first downs (18 to 9), time of possession (29:09 to 14:51) and third down conversion rate (50 percent, to 25).

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