Saturday, December 2, 2017

Middleboro Runs Away from Littleton to Capture D6 State Championship

Middleboro captured the D6 state title, and celebrated late assistant coach and teacher Scott Nelson with his old high school number 57 on a special Sachem jersey.
By John McGuirk (@patsfan1313)

- There was nothing about Littleton that proved a conundrum to Middleboro. The Sachems took the Tigers' best punches early, but dished a considerable amount more during Saturday's 43-20 victory in the MIAA Division 6 state championship at Gillette Stadium.

Middleboro (10-3) earned its first state title since 1983, and fourth in school history as the Sachems put on an offensive clinic at the expense of Littleton (11-1).

The Sachems' two-prong attack of quarterback Evan Gwozdz and running back Jeremy Soule suddenly grew legs, as other skilled position players got into the act which, in turn, evolved into a major headache for the Tigers. As is the case with Middleboro, everything starts with Gwozdz. The senior proved lethal all morning long, completing 15 of 17 passes for 205 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also ran for 58 yards and two scores.

"I could never have done anything without my teammates," said Gwozdz. "We have a ton of unbelievable players on this team. This is something I will never forget. We've been practicing hard all year and we know we can get the ball into a lot of people's hands. Today we were able to do that."

Leading by six at the break, the Sachems took control of things in the closing half by scoring on all four of their possessions. Middleboro finished with 370 yards of offense. Soule balanced out the Sachems' offensive attack by rushing 12 times for 102 yards as early on, the Tigers seemed more content on stopping the run which left a lot of one on one match-ups in the secondary.

Gwozdz also saw this and that is why he was able to connect with his receiving targets so easily. Gwozdz's primary targets were seniors Harry LaPierre and Colin O'Brien. Each being a thorn in Littleton's side. LaPierre caught six balls for 95 yards and a touchdown. O'Brien was targeted four times for 42 yards and a pair of scores.

"We were confident coming in that if they were going to try and shutdown Jeremy then we were going to pass the ball," Gwozdz said. "If they're going to try and cover the pass then we would run the ball. That's what we did today and it showed."

Things started well for the Tigers. They took the opening drive 75 yards, while eating up all but 49 seconds of the initial quarter in the process, before Luke Elliott powered into the end zone from a yard out. After the conversion run failed, Littleton led 6-0.

Back came Middleboro on its first possession. Gwozdz completed his first two passes for a combined 45 yards. Moving to the Tigers 4, O'Brien took a short pass from Gwozdz and ran it in to knot things at 6 after the PAT attempt failed. Getting the ball back with a few minutes left before halftime, the Sachems drove 73 yards capped off by 19 yard scoring strike from Gwozdz to O'Brien with 2:32 showing to go up 12-6 after the conversion pass failed.

Middleboro gained possession to begin the third, setting up on the Tigers' 48. With its offense in full swing, the Sachems went up by two scores after Gwozdz hit LaPierre on a swing pass. After making defensive back Mike Crory whiff on his attempted tackle, LaPierre waltzed untouched the necessary 24 yards for the touchdown.

Littleton, which finished with 278 yards, stormed back to cut the deficit to 20-12 on Elliott's second 1 yard scoring dive with 2:27 to go in the quarter. Playing from behind the the majority of this contest, the Tigers had to resort to their passing attack instead of their patented ground game. Brad Klock, who came in having rushed for 1,051 yards, was limited to 73 on 14 carries. Backfield mate Kevin Frisoli finished with 64.

Littleton's score did little to rattle the Sachems. On their ensuing possession, a Soule 30 yard jaunt set up Gwozdz's 14 yard sprint up the middle, followed by a Matt Crowley conversion catch, to extend Middleboro's advantage to 28-12.

"As the second half went along I think Middleboro began to show all of the firepower it had," said Tigers head coach Mike Lynn, now 1-4 in Super Bowls. "They had a lot of kids out there making plays. Middleboro is a great football team and were the better team today. I'm very proud of our kids and we have nothing to be ashamed of."

Things worsened for the Tigers moments later. Quarterback Will Scott (11 of 17 for 124 yards), was picked off by O'Brien. That would eventually lead to a Dave Riendeau 3 yard scoring reception to make it 35-12 with 7:54 remaining.

"We knew we were going to score points today," Middleboro head coach Pat Kingman said. "I thought we spread the ball out pretty well today. We got a lot of contributions today. I thought our offensive line played their butts off. We knew Littleton was going to bring some heat. Littleton is a good team. They weren't 11-0 for reason."

To their credit, the Tigers continued to show some grit despite the differential on the scoreboard. Scott hit Jackson Ellis for a 13 yard touchdown. However, the Sachems were not done just yet. Littleton's on-sides kick attempt rolled out of bounds giving Middleboro the ball on the Tigers' 45. Gwozdz would cap off the five play drive with a 9 yard carry. A fake PAT try resulted in kicker Brandon Buote running in the conversion adding insult to injury.

"You never know if you are ever going to get here," said Kingman. "I told our kids that you never regret anything you love and today our kids played like they never had any regrets. The kids did a really good job holding (Littleton) down a bit."

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