A single play changed the course of the entire game.
With guest Bridgewater-Raynham (6-2) ahead just 7-6 with 4:51 remaining in the second quarter, and the Trojans standing firm on Barnstable High School's two-yard line, junior captain and inside linebacker Andrew Ellis made a bone-jarring, reverberating tackle on B-R star running back Nick Schlatz that put the senior captain out of the game with a concussion.
While B-R nevertheless scored on the ensuing play to make it 13-6, the game, up until that moment, had been a virtual one-man show with Schlatz starring on both sides of the ball. Schlatz scored a 73-yard touchdown on Bridgewater-Raynham's first offensive play of the game, amassed 112 yards rushing on 12 carries and had two interceptions on defense before being forced to the sidelines for the game's remainder. He had done all of that damage in just about 15 minutes of elapsed game time.
But with B-R's star out of the game, Barnstable would eventually tie the game at 13-13 before heading to the locker room at intermission and then it would go ahead, 20-13 in the third quarter (6:17).
B-R came back with just 2:15 left in the game to knot the score at 20-20 and it sent the game into overtime. But with B-R's offense battered and bruised, and the Old Colony League championship on the line, the Red & White defense finally came up with an answer for a legitimate Division 1 threat and stopped the Trojans dead in their tracks.
With each team being afforded one possession from the 10-yard line, Barnstable looked first to Theo France (22 carries/161 yards, 2 touchdowns) who gained one yard on first and goal. Then the ball went to Hayden Murphy who took it four yards up the middle to the five-yard line. It did not take much to predict that Murphy would be the go-to guy once again on third down and the prediction held true: Murphy glided through a gauntlet of Trojans en route to paydirt, victory, the league championship, and sweet redemption over last season's 50-22 debaucle versus the guests.
All totalled, Murphy carried the ball eight times for 54 yards and one touchdown on the night, but it was Theo France who toiled with the lion's share of pigskin duties, racking up 161 yards rushing on 22 carries for two scores, including a 50-yard run that helped tie the score at 13-13. On-again, off-again quarterback Nick Peabody carried the ball five times for seven yards rushing on the night and Tedaro France had one carry for 20 yards but also had three receptions for 24 yards, including the touchdown that made it 19-13 (20-13 with the PAT kick by Tom Mullen).
Although he seemed dejected after the big win, sophomore placekicker Tom Mullen had no reason to be. While his all-time school record of 33 consecutive PAT kicks will have a difficult time of ever being challenged, let alone broken, Mullen did miss his first PAT kick of the season after Barnstable's first touchdown of the game with the score at 7-6. But with "the streak" over, Mullen then hit a pair of perfect beauties on the next two Barnstable scores, leaving him at 35-36 thus far on the season with two games to go, plus, now, the playoffs. With just 0:06 remaining in the game and time left for just one more play, Mullen attempted a 51-yard field goal that soared just inches, it seemed, past the top of the left pillar of the uprights with the game tied at 20-20. Even though it may have missed, Mullen's long-distance boot revealed, if nothing else has, that he is without question the "real deal."
The miss really mattered little, though, as the Barnstable team knew it would have at least one more shot and it capitalized on the chance in overtime like it's done at no other point during the season. Now at 3-0 in league play with the OCL slate completed and its crown in full Red & White ownership for the first time since 2002, Barnstable ended it last home game of the 2011 campaign with a taste of unified, collective Red Raider Pride not seen in some time at W. Leo Shields Memorial Field. No one man got the job done, in essence, 11 young men did, or in this instance, 65 of them.
Barnstable heads to Plymouth North High School next week in hope of avenging last year's loss at the hands of the Eagles, and then culminates the regular season at Elmer "Guv" Fuller Field for its 120th all-time game versus the Falmouth High School Clippers. Then it's playoff time, and who knows? Could a Super Bowl appearance be in the cards for BHS?
It could be.
In his usual understated fashion, first-year head coach Chris Whidden said following the game that he "could not feel more excited" about his team's victory.
How It All Went Down - BHS Wins the OCL Title in Overtime
On Barnstable High football's Senior Night, B-R running back extraordinaire Nick Schaltz had the home fans quickly scratching their heads and collectively squirming in their seats as he took off on a sweep right 73 yards into the end zone on the Trojans' first offensive play of the game. Kevin Wadsworth's PAT kick was good and at 10:42 of the first quarter, Barnstable stared straight in the face of a 7-0 deficit.
But being used to staring down the throat of a figurative lion, junior kick-returner Tedaro France caught the ensuing kickoff and raced 67 yards downfield to counter B-R's quick, emotional blow.
Nick Peabody then found Hayden Murphy on back-to-back pass routes for 12 and five yards, respectively, and then on second and five went to the air again only to be picked clean in the secondary by Nick Schlatz. Again went the lumps in the collective throats of the BHS faithful. With a 1st and 10 at their own 33-yard line, B-R went quickly to Schlatz out of the backfield, for a gain of two, but the stop near the line of scrimmage proved costly for the Red Raider defensive unit.
Jason Frieh, perhaps the most consistently productive defensive player for Barnstable throughout the entire season, a player who has fought through pain and bruises with Spartan stoicism almost as if he could not function in any other capacity, suffered a brutal knee injury that may have in effect ended his season. He was carried off to the sidelines by his teammates and again one could almost hear the crowd thinking aloud "what next?"
Schlatz took off running again on the ensuing play for a gain of seven yards, while Barnstable was also called for offsides. Over and over and over again the Trojans slammed the ball up the middle and around the ends, attempting to subtly whittle away time on the clock while delivering blow after blow to the Red Raider defense.
But it didn't quite work that way. Instead, it was Barnstable's defensive unit, paced by the fiery Ellis and followed by Sam Holway on the outside, with a dash of Josiah "Jumbo" Dulak on the front line that spelled pain and agony for Bridgewater-Raynham's backfield. Five plays later and Barnstable had successfully stymied the B-R running game and took over the ball on downs.
At the Trojan 47-yard line, BHS swirled and twisted and sped through the arms of Trojan tacklers using a combination of counter blasts and option sweeps that had the guests on their heels. Theo France for four yards, Murphy for one, France again for six, then Murphy for four more. It was as if Barnstable was attempting to pick the lock of a bank safe, number by number, turn by turn. France again for three yards, then a Peabody pass for a gain of 10 yards to Tedaro France. Then older brother Theo for a gain of 13. On first and goal, it was payback time as Theo France darted into the end zone to make it 7-6 with 2:57 left in the first quarter.
But then the completely unexpected occurred, as if enough surprises hadn't already been tossed around like candy exploding from a pinata. Tom Mullen missed the PAT kick attempt. His consecutive streak had ended at 33-33. School record or no, it was tough for the near perfect young Red Raider to swallow. Barnstable remained down by one point.
But the BHS defense seemed to be infused last night with a cumulative energy it had not brought forth in the previous eight games of the season.
Much of that energy and inspiration was projected by Andrew Ellis. Not in the 30 or so games he has played before last night in a Red Raider uniform had Ellis come prepared with such a fire and infectious, palpable enthusiasm. B-R returned Mullen's ensuing kickoff but Trojan senior captain Branden Morin didn't make it but 10 yards before being met head on by the steam train on two legs, Ellis.
And on 1st and 10 from their own 26 yard line, again Deluliis handed off to Schlatz who was met by a brick wall forearm delivered by... Ellis. on 2nd and 10, Deluliis threw an incompletion. But in this title bout, the Red Raiders could not afford to play wihtout emotion, just as it could not afford as it has in so many games previously to allow emotions spiral out of control. A 15-yard pass interference on 3rd and 10 proved costly in that specific regard.
Senior running back Eric Wabrek then got the nod for a gain of three yards, followed by a seven-yarder from Schlatz, and a subsequent three-yarder. The first quarter ended and to start the second frame, B-R was faced with a 3rd and 7. The fire in Barnstable's eyes may have proved distracting as the Trojan's went offsides to make it 3rd and 12. Schlatz got the nod but this time was met fiercely by a blitzing Bryan Hardy and noseguard Aurelio DiMuzio. B-R was forced to punt.
Deep, now, in its own territory, Barnstable first opted for a QB keeper by Peabody for a gain of three, followed by another three-yarder from Theo France. Peabody rolled right on third and four and fired one down the sideline but it was tipped right into Schlatz's hands for his second interception of the night.
The Trojans took over at the Red Raider 25 and the first nod went again to Schlatz for a gain of three. Then Morin for five and Schlatz for 10 more. Deluliis called his own number on the 5-yard line on 1st and goal, but again was met defiantly at the line of scrimmage. On 2nd and goal, Schlatz went at it again for a gain of one, met by Dulak and Hardy. On third and goal, Schlatz went off tackle on the right only to be met so precipitously by Ellis that the tall, well-built tailback laid on the turf motionless. After being tended to by the game's emergency personnel, Schlatz left the field on his own accord but it was readily apparent that this was no longer the young man's usual, confident gait.
Regardless, Deluliis hit Wabrek in the end zone on an option pass on the following play to make it 13-6. B-R opted instead of the PAT kick to go for two points and failed and it may ultimately have proven a costly strategem. Terrence Mudie's coverage in the secondary simply could not be outmaneuvered.
After a Tedaro France 12-yard kick return, BHS quickly marched downfield with just over five minutes left in the half. Down 13-6, Hayden Murphy took the opening play for a gain of eight yards, followed by Theo France for a gain of five. Situated directly at midfield on the 50-yard line, France then made a quick cut off a Billy Grimmer block and raced 50 yards into the end zone to make it 13-12. With 3:55 remaining in the half, Mullen boomed the PAT kick down the middle, and then some, to tie the game at 13-13.
The Second Half - The March to Glory
Murphy, who had an air of added speed about him last night, as if the lightning-quick sophomore could get much quicker, took the second half opening kickoff downfield 30 yards before being taken down. A B-R player was injured on the play.
In the interim as both teams waited on bent knee for the player to be tended to and brought to the sidelines, the fury and frustration of Barnstable's explosive hitting and desire to win had reached a crescendo with Bridgewater-Raynham head coach Dan Buron who implored his Trojans to "play some football!" and admitted openly, "they are kicking your butts out there!"
Murphy and France then decided the time had come to put on a display.
France went five yards... then took three more. Murphy, on a brilliant block by offensive tackle Cam Crocker, jaunted 20 yards further downfield. He then tacked on five more. A 10-yard run by France was negated on a holding penalty, but he took 10 yards again on his next carry, anyway. Murphy bulled ahead for a gain of seven, and France followed for 12 more. It seemed as if the one-year-old artificial turf had been lit afire in the wake of these two running backs.
France took it again for a gain of four, then was felled like a tree in the backfield for a loss of the same amount. Staked on the B-R nine-yard line with a 3rd and 8 to go, Peabody then stepped in at QB, rolled to his left out of the shotgun and hit Tedaro France in the end zone to make it 19-13. Mullen's kick at the 6:17 mark was good and Barnstable had succeeded in turning things around a full 180 degrees from the opening seconds of the game.
Murphy showed his versatility on the kickoff by laying an absolute bomb on kick returner Arbel Armstead which in turn served as a precursor for the next series of leveling blows delivered by the reinvented, reinvigorated Barnstable defensive unit. Holway, Hardy, Bob Silva, DiMuzio, Litchman and Hatstat all brought their lunch pails on this next Trojan attempt to even the score, but a punt on 4th and 10 was all that the guests could offer.
The Fourth Quarter - A Battle of Wills Ensues
Theo France predictably took a pair of handoffs to start things off but was then followed by a duet of Peabody rushes up the middle before a holding call and an incompletion forced BHS to punt on 4th and 14. B-R found itself in good field position in spite of a botched punt return, situated at their own 40.
Morin appeared to be virtually the only hope for B-R's OCL championship hopes and he did not fail to give the guests everything he could, mixed in with a healthy does of Armstead running the ball on every other play. With just 2:56 remaining in the game, down 20-13, B-R quickly found itself at 4th and 4.
This time, it went to the air and Deluliis (4-11, 34 yards, TD) found a diving, outstretched Ryan Scripter on the sideline for a first down gain of 11 that put the Trojans on the BHS five-yard line. It was only appropriate to give the nod to Morin who leaped into the air through the A Gap and into paydirt to make it 20-19. Wadsworth's PAT kick was good and the game was tied, 20-20.
And not a single remaining second of this game was any less exciting than the previous 41 minutes.
Theo France took off on runs of 10, 15 and three yards before little brother Tedaro took a reverse hand-off 20 yards downfield and into the red zone, with special thanks to a tremendous stalk-block by wide receiver Dylan Morris. Everyone including the custodial staff waiting in the wings for the culmination of the game thought Barnstable was sure to score but on 1st and 10 the ball squirted loose on the Peabody-to-Theo France transfer and B-R's Morin pounced on it on his team's own 20-yard line.
B-R simply could not capitalize, as emotionally uplifting as the fumble recovery had been, and it went three and out.
A Tedaro France run of five, then a pair of passes from Peabody to James Burke for gains of five and 10 yards, put Barnstable at midfield but time was evaporating. With just 0:06 remaining in the game, out came Mullen, perhaps one of if not the best placekicker Barnstable has seen in its 119 years of Red Raider football.
The attempt was a 51-yard field goal. The snap was there, the ball placed quickly by Murphy and the kick was up and looked almost dead perfect, but a slight gust of fate pushed the leather ellipse slightly left. The game remained tied at 20-20. Time had run out. Both teams ran on emotional and physical fumes.
There was not much to the overtime period that ensued. In essence, Barnstable played defense while B-R tried to score from the 10. It had four tries to do so. It failed, or, rather, Barnstable's defense succeeded to stymie the Trojan attempt. Not even a Trojan horse, it seemed, could wheel under this defensive unit's noses last night.
And, as he had helped lead Barnstable downfield to score the game-tying touchdown, the nod went back again to Murphy whose feet, it seemed, to be frank, did not look as if they even touched a blade of artificial grass in the five yards between the line of scrimmage and the end zone. With the ball raised high above his head, Murphy was met by the school's the student-body as it stormed the field in Hollywood fashion. The unified roar of the home crowd could be heard at the West End rotary. Tears streamed down some boys' faces. Laughter filled the bone-chilling November night. The end result of this affair was the antithesis of the Red Raiders' psyche just seven days earlier.
And as Coach Whidden said in true-to-form, methodical yet purposeful fashion during the on-field post-game debriefing to his Red Raiders, it was back to work the next morning at 7:45 a.m.
Barnstable will face an always tough Plymouth North team next Friday night at 7:00 pm. The Red Raiders stand at 5-4.
The tackle by Ellis - who put on his best performance of the season when everything was on the line -was just one of 9.5 he made throughout the game, even while hobbled by an ankle injury. The captain of the BHS defense, Ellis's hard play throughout the night seemed to inspire his teammates to do the same, as evidenced by superlative efforts from the likes of Ryan Litchman, Derek Estes, Sam Holway and Bryan Hardy, to name a few.