WORCESTER -- It was the total team effort that North Middlesex football coach Sandy Ruggles knows his squad must put forward to win. Keyed by a 200-yard, three-touchdown effort on the ground by Brandon Lambert that led a near 400-yard offensive effort along with a defense that allowed just 160 yards, the Patriots rolled to a 33-8 victory over Worcester North on Saturday afternoon.
"We aren't a team of superstars who can go out and beat teams just on talent alone," said Ruggles. "What we need is everyone doing their job and working towards a common goal. Today, everybody that stepped on the field contributed to this win, and I am extremely proud of the effort we put forth."
After spotting the Polar Bears an 8-0 lead on a Jakhari Carpenter touchdown, North Middlesex responded on the ensuing possession. A four-play, 72-yard scoring drive was capped off when John Boutwell connected with Bryan Croteau on a seam route for a 52-yard scoring strike to cut the advantage to 8-6.
Early in the second quarter, Lambert found the end zone for the first time. On second-and-five from the 25, the senior running back took a hand-off on a read option play off the right side, cut back to the middle and outraced the defense, covering 75 yards for a score to make it a 12-8 game.
"I thought Brandon did a nice job throughout the game making the right read and hitting the holes," said Ruggles. "Credit also has to go to the offensive line for the blocking job they did today."
The offensive line of Yannis Haikiadakis, Daegan Gray, Trevor Murphy, Chris Tucker and Paul Naumann went back to work on the next offensive possession for the Patriots. This time, North Middlesex drove 59 yards on five plays as Boutwell threw for 30 yards and Lambert ran for 29, including the last two off the right side for a touchdown. Ben Ferro added the PAT kick to extend the lead to 19-8.
Another three-and-out forced by the defense gave the ball back to the Patriots offense and they delivered their fourth score of the opening half. On second-and-10 from the Worcester North 45, Lambert took an option pitch on the right side and raced down the sideline for his third score of the day. Ferro once again added the extra point as North Middlesex took a 26-8 lead into the intermission.
"Once again, we started a little slow, and that is something we have to work on," said Ruggles. "But unlike last week, we took on the first wave and withstood it. We answered right back and kept the pressure on them."
Midway through the third quarter, Tyler MacDonald picked off a Polar Bears pass to end a scoring threat. The Patriots took advantage of the short field, marching 44 yards on nine plays to cap the scoring on the day. Lambert went for six yards on the first play, putting him at 200 yards and ending his day. Boutwell did the honors this time, keeping the ball on an option read and going off the left side for an 11-yard scoring run. Ferro made it three-for-three on PATs to account for the game's final points as North Middlesex moved to 1-1 on the season.
"Our goal is to improve every week we take the field, and I feel like we did that this week," said Ruggles. "There are a lot of positives to take from this game, but we have some mistakes we have to fix. It was a good win, but we can't be satisfied with it, we have to keep getting better."
Boutwell had an efficient day at quarterback, completing five of his seven passes for 86 yards and a score while adding a rushing touchdown. Justyn Atwood led the defensive effort with eight tackles and a fumble recovery for the Patriots.