OCL Shocker: Barnstable Stages Upset Over Unbeaten Dartmouth
Pegged to struggle without three-year (& five games) starting quarterback D.J. Crook, the Barnstable High School Red Raiders football team re-tooled its offense, shifted a defensive player or two around and came together as a team.
The numbers didn't add up.
Coming into this week's first league match-up versus unbeaten Dartmouth (5-1) last night at W. Leo Shields Memorial Field in Hyannis, Barnstable (3-3) had to make some decisions about what to do without three-year (and five games) star quarterback D.J. Crook, a senior tri-captain.
In last week's third quarter versus the tough New Bedford Whalers, Crook was sidelined with a fractured thumb. New Bedford then scored 24 unanswered fourth quarter points en route to a come-from-behind victory that had local and regional football fans scratching their heads: what was Barnstable going to do? Was the season over? Was the remainder of the schedule too daunting to have hope? Whom would replace whom?
After all, Dartmouth entered last night's contest, the first Old Colony League match-up for each team, undefeated. It had outscored its previous five opponents, 119-34. Its defensive prowess seemed indomitable, at least on paper. Its offense boasted a minimum of seven student-athletes who had scored one or more touchdowns. The pre-game hype had Dartmouth favored to inflict some palpable, tangible damage against a Red & White squad that seemed depleted, dejected and demoralized.
Quite the contrary.
Instead of wallowing in defeat, first-year head coach Chris Whidden (Springfield) and his Red & White gridiron 11 opted for an interesting concept: platoon two apt players at the quarterback slot, reinstill faith in the defense and vary things so widely - but not inappropriately - in the offensive game-plan that it would be difficult even for the vaunted Dartmouth defense to stop.
The plan worked.
Buoyed by the poise, determination and leadership offered by junior Nick Peabody, combined with a varied running attack that boasted not one less than eight players, and reinvigorated by a defensive onslaught led by Ryan Litchman, Jason Frieh, Andrew Ellis, Bryan Hardy and Terrence Mudie, to name a few, the Red Raiders manhandled the visiting Dartmouth High School Indians, 37-0, in what may be deemed as the first "big win" over a "big team" in recent memory.
All totalled, Peabody went 10-17 in the air for 181 yards passing, 127 of which went on six receptions to junior wide receiver Dylan Morris, including a 25-yard touchdown pass. Peabody did not balk. He did not flinch. He did not throw an interception. He did not fumble when he foisted himself into the breach of the Indians' defense.
In fact, it was Peabody who would strike first and it was Peabody's seven-yard touchdown run with 0:31 remaining in the first quarter that would ultimatly prove the only score Barnstable would need to pull this one out. With time ticking away in the first quarter after each team had exchanged ho-hum punt after fourth down punt, Peabody made a bedazzling fake to his right, then turned left and jolted into the end zone unfettered and unphased. Followed by sophomore Tom Mullen's 23rd consecutive point after kick, BHS had a 7-0 lead it would not relinquish.
It would not relinquish its lead in large part due to the stoic indifference and relentless, hard tackling by a Barnstable team that had some fans wondering previously if they had it in them. Allowing an average of 29.75 points per game in the team's last four games, and haunted by the recent spectre of four of the least productive defensive seasons in the school's football history, last night atop the artificial FieldTurf, the Barnstable defense came to play.
Litchman paved the way with 10.5 tackles, followed closely by Ellis who had 7.5 tackles, interceptions from senior Homecoming King Jeremy Hatstat and the rough-and-tumble Mudie, and a fierce combination of blocked passes, tackles and a personal brand of relentlessness that has become the trademark of Jason "The Machine" Frieh, the Barnstable defensive unit finally lived up to the 118 defensive units that have come before it since 1893.
It made Dartmouth appear confused, stunned and frankly, nervous from the outset of the game.
Even though Barnstable had to face the Indians without special teams player extraordinaire, Tedaro France, and even though his older brother Theo France would gain just 38 yards on six carries and come out of the game early, and in spite of some doubt about, basically, everything that could be imagined on a high school football field, the Red Raiders instilled enough fear into Dartmouth from the outset that it had the Indians on their collective heels.
Imagine, Barnstable tallied just 128 yards rushing on the night - from eight, yes eight, different ball carriers and still it was enough to see five different players score touchdowns. It was enough so that nearly the entire junior varsity squad and second stringers got a chance to play. It was enough for two Barnstable players to score their first-ever varsity touchdowns. It was enough for Dartmouth to literally run at full trot to its buses once the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Theo France carried the ball six times for 38 yards rushing. Hayden Murphy, who alternated between short stints at quarterback, then back again to wideout then again to running back, collected 28 yards on five carries. Terrence Mudie had five carries for 26 yards and Peabody himself totalled 23 yards on seven tries.
But the niftiest part of this quick-moving, unpredictable offensive set-up was, perhaps, when Murphy made a Houdini-like fake left, bailed right on a bootleg on the two-yard line, then just before getting peppered by the Darmouth defense, pitched the ball to his right to sophomore Derek Estes for Estes' first-ever varsity score. Combined with a Peabody to James Burke first and goal TD pass, Mullen's continued prowess with his right boot, Sam Holway's joyous safety in the end zone and the almost ridiculously stalwart defensive mania provided by Frieh, this affair was enough to pull even the most pessimistic of Red Raider fans to their feet.
It has been said that in order to be deemed and respected as an athlete, one must first perfect the art of humility.
Humbled last week by New Bedford, if not earlier, the Barnstable Red & White entered last night's much-hyped contest not the projected image of a vivid imagination, but instead, the embodiment of self-deference, unification of spirit and an enjoining of like minds and hearts. It was, in essence and much afterthought, uplifting.
Peabody Silences the Doubting Few
There were some yawns and much silence in the stands in the early going of this affair. Barnstable won the coin toss. It elected to receive. It went five plays and punted.
Dartmouth, with its back to its own end zone after one of numerous, fabulous Devin Broadley punts on the evening, was poised to do the same when on third and 12 Frieh stormed through the Dartmouth O-line and blocked Trevor Leandro's pass as if it were a perfunctory gesture.
On 4th and 12, Dartmouth punted. Then Barnstable punted again. Then Dartmouth ran seven plays and punted again.
But this time things began to click. After a Peabody incomplete pass on 1st and 10 at its own 22 yard line, Theo France ran for 11 yards and a first down. Then Peabody hit France for a screen play that France turned into a 40-yard gain. France, Mudie, Peabody and Murphy then exchanged turns carrying the rock in short but fruitful clips and bursts. Again, Peabody threw an incompletion. Could he get the job done with just seven yards between him and the goal line?
He answered yes, sir, I can.
Perfecting a fake right that had many heads in the stands looking the wrong way, as well as many heads on the Dartmouth defense, Peabody whirled left and jaunted into paydirt for a 6-0 lead and, for all intents and purposes, the victory.
The guest Indians did not offer much of a rebuke, opting instead to run five plays and then punt. BHS returned the favor, only this time it had the privilege of a Broadley 58-yard boot that junior Bryan Hardy raced downfield and touched at the "one-inch" line. One could smell a safety coming.
Well, at least the estimable and gutsy Sam Holway could.
On 3rd and 10, Dartmouth's Leandro dropped back in the end zone only to be met with a fierce blow from Holway for the safety and a 9-0 Barnstable lead.
Peabody, it seemed, could almost taste victory as the seconds ticked down to halftime. After a France five-yard run, Peabody hit Kadeem Bailey for a gain of 10 yards. Then Mudie barreled his way for a gain of three. Then, as if he had been waiting to pounce like a cat all night, Dylan Morris hit the center slot and caught Peabody's offering in stride for a 22-yard gain. Poised on the two-yard line, with feet stomping in the crowd and cheerleaders shouting in unison, Peabody bootlegged right under pressure and located James Burke for Burke's first-ever varsity score.
Combined with Jeremy Hatstat's ensuing interception and Derek Estes' first-ever varsity TD (he had two last Saturday in the JV victory over New Bedford), it was basically all BHS needed to get the job done.
A wide-open Morris took passes from Peabody to the tune of 32 and then 25 yards, the 25-yarder being a touchdown with just 0:24 left in the first half. BHS would ride the wave of that brilliant score to the locker room, armed with a 30-0 lead. It was as if Morris tap-danced into the end zone in a slightly self-constrained jig of glee. He made it look easy.
Easy or not, in between making opposing running backs' lives miserable throughout the night, junior tri-captain Andrew Ellis completed this season-turning win with the coups de grace when he fullbacked his way into the end zone with 4:19 left in the third quarter. It would prove, after Mullen's 27th consecutive PAT kick, the final score of the game at 37-0.
And as Dartmouth rode into the October night, lettered with its first loss of the 2011 campaign, perhaps unexpectedly, for the first time in recent memory the Red & White strode into the locker room, lunch pails in hand. The work day had ended. The pay check, collected.
Back to work on Monday... and all when going back to the mines hadn't seemed to feel this good, in a long, long time.
Game note: the BHS junior varsity will play Dartmouth on the road on Monday, Oct. 17, around 4:00 pm.