Saturday, November 18, 2017

McHugh Breaks Out to Lead North Attleboro to Gillette

By Jake Levin (@JakeLevin09)

WEYMOUTH - Good things came in threes for the North Attleboro Red Rocketeers in its 29-21 win over the Tewksbury Redmen to advance to Gillette Stadium.

Brendan McHugh had three touchdowns for North Attleboro, while the Red Rocketeers forced a trio of Tewksbury turnovers to move on to the Division 3 State Championship Game on December 3rd.

McHugh had 163 yards from scrimmage for North. He carried the ball only 10 times but managed 86 yards, and caught just two passes but again made those count, with 77 yards receiving.

“He’s the one guy that can break it every time he touches the football,” North head coach Don Johnson noted.

Every time the Red Rocketeers needed a big play, McHugh was there. He scored the first points of the game on a 2-yard rushing touchdown with 1:34 to go in the first quarter, caught a 51-yard pass on a seam route to give his team the lead back in the second, and had a 56-yard touchdown run which stood as the game-winner early in the fourth.

Despite his hat trick of touchdowns, McHugh’s most important play of the game may have been on a play that didn’t wind up in the end zone.

North trailed 15-14 at halftime but received the kickoff to begin the third quarter. Things couldn’t have started off more disastrously for the Red Rocketeers, as quarterback Chad Peterson was sacked on each of the first two plays by Justin Roseberg and Shane Darrigo, respectively, for a total loss of 13 yards.

Facing third-and-23, Peterson again dropped back and managed to get rid of the ball quickly on a slant to McHigh. He took advantage of the soft coverage from the Redmen and managed to scamper upfield for a 26-yard gain, giving North an improbable first down.

The play kept alive what would be a 12-play, 72-yard drive to open the third quarter for the Red Rocketeers that took up nearly eight minutes of game clock. Nathan Pearce capped the series off with a 5-yard touchdown run to reestablish North’s lead, and Peterson connected with Nolan Buckley in the back corner of the end zone for a two-point conversion to give the Red Rocketeers a 22-15 lead.

“That’s been a hallmark of ours in the last couple of weeks, establish ourselves on the first drive of the second half,” Johnson said. “That swings the momentum of these close games.”

“It was super important,” McHugh agreed of the drive to open the second half. “We wanted to play physical all game and we wanted to keep their offense off the field. Chewing the clock was great for us.”

Ball control plagued Tewksbury, which lost three fumbles in the game. Adam Eberle recovered a Redmen fumble on their first drive of the game, which proved to be an omen for a pair of turnovers in the fourth quarter.

Zach DeMattio recovered a fumble on the kickoff which followed McHugh’s 56-yard touchdown run with 9:56 to go in the fourth quarter, and Eberle dealt Tewksbury a crippling blow with his second recovery of the game on a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line later on in the period.

The Redmen picked up big chunks of yardage on the Red Rocketeers – particularly in the first half, when running back Brandon Winn went off for 76 yards on 13 carries. Blake Hiltz also excelled on the big play for Tewksbury, with three catches for 59 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half for the Redmen.

James Connolly had 178 yards passing for Tewksbury and three touchdown passes for the Redmen. He caught North sleeping on several occasions, including a 39-yard strike to Hiltz for the Redmen’s first score of the game. A 41-yard pass to Masyn Lorick also put the glare on some shaky coverage from the Red Rocketeers, as did Tewksbury’s entire final drive of the game – however brief and inconsequential it wound up being.

Seemingly out of chances, Connolly engineered a lightning-quick three-play, 56-yard drive on which he completed all three of his passes. He threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Winn with 35 seconds left to make it a one-score game again, but after the ensuing on-sides kick failed, North had its ticket punched to Foxboro.

“We’re happy,” Johnson said. “It’s good to be going bowling.”

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