Friday, October 27, 2017

Rockland Downs Cardinal Spellman in Division 6 South Sectional Matchup

By Nate Rollins (@n_rollins1)

ROCKLAND, Mass - The Rockland High defense has made life miserable for opposing offenses.

The No. 3 Bulldogs entered their Division 6 South Sectional quarterfinal match against No. 6 Cardinal Spellman High with some eye-popping numbers on that side of the ball.

Through their first seven contests, they had allowed more than two touchdowns just once (In a 28-0 loss Week 2 against Abington) and this evening followed the same trend.

Rockland held the Cardinals to a season-low three points to snatch a 14-3 victory.

“Our kids work hard man, they really do,” first-year Rockland head coach Nick Liquori said. “They’re students of the game. They’re getting much, much better every day, they ask good questions. We’re hard-nosed, there is no easy yard.”

The Bulldogs (6-2) advance to face No. 2 Old Rochester (7-1) in the semifinals next week.

It was the Rockland special teams getting the job done early. Just 18 seconds in, James Fitzgerald took the opening kickoff 90 yards for a score to make it 7-3. 

“We’re not in this position if he doesn’t set that tone like that,” Liquori said.

The touchdown proved crucial as the Spellman (5-3) defense would show it was up for the challenge.

After the Bulldogs’ second straight three-and-out, they were forced to punt from their own 17-yard line. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they were able to gain possession at the Rockland 35.

After moving the ball inside the red zone, the Cardinals were unable to find the end zone and were forced to settle for a 24-yard field goal, which Mark Anastasi drove through the uprights.

Rockland would counter with a  drive, but was unable to turn it into points and turned it over on downs with remaining in the second quarter.

Three possessions later, Rockland’s Anthony Vasquez came down with an interception in the final seconds of the first half.

Trailing 7-3 to begin the third quarter, it appeared the Cardinals had a bit of momentum when JJ Cooper took the kickoff to the Rockland 36. After advancing the ball all the way to the Bulldogs’ 10, Spellman came up empty on fourth down.

“They’ve kind of bought into our program," Liquori said of his team. “They trust each other, and I think that’s the biggest part. If you don’t have trust out there with all 11 then some think they have to do two jobs and that’s certainly not the case.”

The Bulldogs, on the other hand, would find pay dirt on their first possession of the second half when Dante Vasquez took a handoff 43 yards into the end zone to cap off a 90-yard drive. Dalton’s kick made it 14-3. 38 yards on the ground from Connor Shea keyed the drive.

“It’s momentum,” Liquori said. “Once again, it goes back to them just listening. There is no freelancing.”

The Bulldogs defense took care of the rest.

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