Saturday, October 21, 2017

Duxbury Survives Hingham for 10th Straight Patriot League Keenan Title

By Tom Joyce (@TomJoyceSports)

HINGHAM - The last time the Duxbury High football league lost a Patriot League Keenan Division football game, Akon was still on the radio, Terry Francona was managing the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title, George W. Bush was in the White House and gas was $5 per gallon.

On Saturday afternoon, the Dragons were fortunate enough to beat Hingham 14-13 on the road. The win gave the Dragons their tenth straight Patriot League Keenan Division title.

It was the closest league game the Dragons had in the last decade, and it could have looked a lot different, since the Harbormen had back-to-back touchdowns called back late in the third quarter in tightly-officiated game that featured over 30 called penalties. Had either of those scores counted, the Harbormen likely would have been crowned champs.

“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” Dragons head coach Dave Maimaron said. “We needed that. Those are huge plays. It’s more than likely we see these guys again (in the playoffs).”

With under a minute remaining in the third quarter, Harbormen quarterback Jack Johnson (11-for-28 passing, 195 yards) connected with Tim O’Brien (six catches, 72 yards), who burned the opposing defense, on a 35-yard touchdown pass that appeared to give the Harbormen a 19-14 lead. Instead, it was called back for holding and the Harbormen were moved back 10 yards.

This time, Johnson hit a wide open Will Thomas with a 45-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds remaining in the third quarter. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called against Hingham on the score. Initially, the officials assessed the penalty on the extra point kick.

But after several minutes of collaboration with an official who was on the other side of the field, they decided to assess it on the touchdown play. This put the Harbormen on their own 40-yard line and gave them first and 35. They were then forced to punt after they were unable to convert on the drive which extended about a minute into the fourth quarter. From there, the Dragons were able to hold onto their one-point lead and win the league title.

“Doing anything 10 times in a row isn’t easy, Maimaron said. “This one was the toughest one yet. That’s just a testament to our senior class that they’ll have a banner hanging in that gym for the rest of their lives.”

In the first half of the game, all of the momentum belonged to the Harbormen.

Midway through the first quarter, the Dragons pushed the ball downfield in the air, but were unable to score. Quarterback John Roberts (25 rushes, 101 yards), ran the ball on a broken play, but fumbled it when he attempted a pump fake to confuse the defense. Alex Diedrich picked the ball up and took it to the end zone for an 85-yard score for the Harbormen. That and a successful extra point kick gave them a 7-0 lead in the game.

With 2:35 remaining in the first quarter, the Harbormen squashed another Dragons scoring opportunity with their foe in the red zone. On fourth and goal from the 13-yard line, Roberts was pressured again and abandoned the initial play call, running to avoid the pressure. He was unable to reach the end zone, however, as Nate Bosnian delivered a punishing tackle at the 6-yard line.

Early in the second quarter, the Harbormen were able to go up by two scores. Quarterback Jack Johnson ran in a 4-yard touchdown with 9:01 remaining in the half to put his team up 13-0.

Just before the second half ended, Thomas intercepted Roberts (8-for-22 passing, 113 yards), once again stopping a strong opportunity for the Dragons.

“I thought our guys played phenomenal tonight,” Harbormen head coach Chris Arouca said. “The effort was great. Both sides played great and it was a great football game. It was a one-point game for the league title. That’s about as good as it gets in high school football.”

In the first half, the Dragons’ passing game lacked poise under pressure, so they changed their offensive gameplan for the second half.
Instead of sticking with their signature spread offense which attacks teams in the air, they opted for an unbalanced formation where they ran some jet sweeps to the strong side using their wide receivers: Will Prouty and James Miele.

Once they established this, they also introduced some quarterback designed run plays up the middle. They did this in addition to giving the ball off to their primary running back Frankie Tower (13 rushes, 79 yards). 
The Dragons swept their way downfield in the middle of the third quarter and with 6:46 remaining in the third, Roberts ran in a quarterback sneak to cap off their first scoring drive the game. Ben Carver kicked a successful extra point to make it a 6-point game.

On their next drive, the Dragons implemented their designed quarterback runs in addition to their sweeps and were able to move the ball downfield that way. Tower was able to score on a 2-yard touchdown run to tie the game. Following the score, a few Duxbury players ran out onto the field and pushed a Hingham player, but no penalty was called. Carver hit the extra point, giving the Dragons a 14-13 lead.

“I think we just fed into the hype of the game a little bit,” Maimaron said of the hit. “It was an emotional game. They were playing super hard. Hingham had a great gameplan and they executed well.”

Both Hingham and Duxbury are in the MIAA Division 3 South playoff brackets. Their first-round opponents have not been announced, but they could go head-to-head at some point, as Maimaron hinted at.

However, instead of worrying about a potential rematch, Arouca said his team will be taking it one week at a time; his focus will be on whoever the Harbormen will be facing this upcoming Friday.

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