This one rattled some nerves.
Still ranked atop the Eastern Mass. polls heading into this afternoon's home game versus first-time-ever opponent Billerica High School, the Barnstable Red Raiders seemed a bit rusty at times after a bye week, but thanks to some incredible defensive play by senior captains and linebackers Andrew Ellis and Ryan Litchman in the second half, victory for the home team was assured.
With the score tied at 26-26 with 5:08 left in the third quarter, Barnstable found itself with its back against the wall and was forced to punt. Litchman lofted a 50-yard boot to put Billerica at its own 25. As the Indians started to make progress downfield, senior Dakota Perilli registered his first-career sack to bring up a key 3rd and 11 situation.
Senior defensive stalwart Jason Frieh then turned on the jets and stripped Billerica quarterback Jordan Bolarinho of the ball just as a blitzing Litchman hammered him 10 yards in the backfield. It proved to be the third of six sacks registered by the Red Raider defense on the afternoon. Bryan Hardy, Ellis, Jon Eldredge and D.J. Gonsalves each added sacks of their own.
But Litchman's sack forced Billerica to punt and in so doing the Indians inadvertantly set up the host Red Raiders for their next score as time expired in the third quarter.
Following a pair of incompletions, senior quarterback and captain Nick Peabody found Hayden Murphy in the flat and Murphy took off like his life depended on it, racing 62 yards before being knocked out of bounds at the Billerica 11-yard line. Murphy gained another three yards rushing sandwiched in between a pair of incomplete passes but then Peabody found senior star Tedaro France in the end zone from 8 yards out to make it 32-26.
Still, Billerica would not go down quietly in its first-ever trip to Hyannis.
Billerica junior QB Bolarinho found Matt Clifford wide open in the Red Raider secondary and Clifford was gone, a 61-yard game-tying touchdown that made it 32-32 at the 8:48 mark of the fourth quarter. The Indians' placekicker Steven Trask split the uprights on the PAT and the guests enjoyed their first lead of the game, 33-32. Things grew eerily quiet at Leo Shields Field and the sun was setting quickly.
Not used to being behind their opponents this season, the Red & White seemed to become reticent if not nervous. An option pitch went flying to the right but was recovered for a fortunate gain of three yards by junior running back Justus Chaffee. The diminutive Chaffee then picked up a gain of three up the middle but not without being pounded by a host of Billerica defenders. Still, Chaffee barreled ahead for another gain of five and then Peabody himself blasted through for a huge first down and gain of 22.
But then a pass play went nowhere. A Peabody run on 2nd and 10 - stopped cold. Another run was fumbled and with some luck, recovered by offensive lineman Allen Buckley.
But there was one man in Red & White who seemed to biding his time, waiting for his moment to shine - senior wide receiver Dylan Morris, the top-scoring wideout in Division 1A in Eastern Mass. Morris took a Peabody offering for 13yards... then another for 16 more. Seeing his moment to deceive the Billerica defense, Peabody then stormed into the breach and scored from 16 yards out, leaping outstretched with Billerica defenders wrapped around his waist - touchdown! Peabody, who ran the ball 10 times on the day for 85 yards, then took the two-point attempt himself and Barnstable was back on top, 40-33.
But few in the home crowd remained at ease.
Staged at midfield, Billerica's Jordan Bolarinho found his fullback wide open for a 9-yard gain. With 5:16 left in the game, it stood with good reason that the Indians had every ounce of ability to come back and tie or go ahead once more.
Not a chance said Ellis. Not no way, not no how. With the courage and brilliance of wizened veteran, the ball on the 40-yard line and 3rd and 1, Jordan Bolarinho attempted to go right up the middle and was met with such bone-jarring ferocity by Ellis at the line of scrimmage, it very well could have been the game-ending play.
But with 4th and inches to go, the Indians tried once more up the middle, only this time Ellis hit the ball carrier so thunderously in the backfield, it envoked a leaping high five to the Gibraltar-like linebacker from head coach Chris Whidden himself. It was truly inspirational, and it was enough to deflate the guests while bolstering the Red & White offense. Murphy ran in his third touchdown of the day with 3:17 to go and BHS had its 7th victory signed, sealed and delivered.
Game notes: All totalled, France was again an offensive machine for the Red & White, with four receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Peabody notched yet another rock-solid day at the helm, as well, throwing 14-24 and 253 yards, as well as three touchdown passes, rushed for one himself and ran in a two-point PAT conversion.
Junior running back Hayden Murphy - who played exceptionally well on both sides of the ball throughout this affair, had 12 carries for 76 yards and three touchdowns, his first-ever three-touchdown game in a Barnstable High School varsity uniform.
Key defensive plays were turned in by Kevin Hardy late in the fourth quarter, in addition to the Spartan-like effort of Ellis... linebacker and senior Bryan Hardy also turned in a solid game... Litchman collected 10 tackles on the day and had a sack... Jason Frieh, usually just on the defensive line, has filled in adeptly as the team's new placekicker after the loss of Terrence Mudie to injury, but it was Frieh's vicious kickoff tackle (yes, after he kicked the ball) late in the fourth quarter that was eye-opening from across the field... Ellis became the first of three generations of Ellis Red Raider football stars to collect two interceptions in one game but few might have also noticed that he started on the offensive line and reverted back to his old number 77 for the day, as worn by his Hall of Fame father, John Ellis (Class of 1977).
Jordan Bolarinho, only a junior, had an incredible game for Billerica. The QB went 23-33 for 312 yards and five touchdown passes.