GROTON -- In order to score in football, a team must possess the football. If they cannot keep possession, they will not win a game. Such was the case for Groton-Dunstable on Saturday morning. During a first half where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, the Crusaders turned the ball over six times, allowing Westford Academy to jump out to a 34-0 lead en route to a 41-6 victory in non-league action.
"It is pretty simple, we hurt ourselves early with all of the turnovers and never could dig out of the hole we created," said Groton-Dunstable coach Derek Asadoorian. "We moved the ball extremely well the entire first half, but then we would make a mistake at the worst possible time. This game should have been more competitive, as we did some of the things we wanted to, but if you turn the ball over six times, you aren't going to win many, if any, games."
On the opening possession of the day, the Grey Ghosts used their passing attack to march down the field for the game's first score. A nine play, 74-yard drive was highlighted by the play of quarterback Troy Faretra, who ran for 10 yards while completing all four of his passes for 69 yards. Westford Academy converted all three of their third-down chances, including scoring on third-and-seven when Faretra hit Ben Rodman on a screen pass that covered 22 yards for a score to make it 6-0.
The Crusaders put together a threat on the ensuing drive, quickly moving the ball up field. Starting at their own 39, Groton-Dunstable got 24 yards of offense from quarterback Mack Eberhardt and a 12-yard run from Quinton Forbes to move to the Grey Ghosts 25. On second-and-nine, a pass down the middle was intercepted by William Puduski, who followed a line of blockers down the left side, going 90 yards for a touchdown. Faretra added the conversion rush, pushing the lead to 14-0.
"I thought the interception return for a touchdown really was the big play of the game," said Asadoorian. "If we finish that drive off and grab a lead, who knows if the game goes in a different direction."
A mishandled snap on a punt attempt led to a turnover on downs on the Crusaders next possession and to Westford Academy's next score. A two play, 16-yard drive was capped off when Justin Mount took a direct snap and swept around the left side untouched for a 16-yard TD run. Thomas Jacobson added the extra point to extend the advantage to 21-0 after a quarter.
Consecutive fumbles by Groton-Dunstable in Grey Ghost territory set the stage for the half's last two scores. A three-play, 59-yard march was completed when Mount hauled in a Faretra pass for a 39-yard score. The duo hooked up again on the next drive, capping off a three play, 64-yard trek with a 41-yard connection for a touchdown. Jacobson added a single PAT as Westford Academy held a 34-0 lead.
Despite being down by more than five scores, the Crusaders continued to fight, only to shoot themselves in the foot. With just under three minutes left, they fumbled going into the end zone, and Puduski was there to recover the loose ball. With 13 seconds left in the half, Groton-Dunstable had a pass picked off at the two-yard line as they continued to knock on the door only to be turned away.
While the scoreboard screamed of a blowout, the total yardage numbers showed a game that was much closer than it appeared. While the Grey Ghosts held a 34-point bulge, they only held a 213-152 edge in offensive yards, but the key number was the 6-0 difference in turnovers.
With the score 41-0, the Crusaders junior varsity squad put together their team's lone scoring drive of the day. Starting at the Westford Academy 49, Groton-Dunstable needed eight plays to get into the end zone, getting a big fourth-and-five conversion on a six-yard pass from Corey Romich to Shane Dawson. On the next play, Dawson went up the middle and into the end zone from four yards out to account for the final.
"Regardless of what happened today, to be 3-1 with a young squad like we have is an accomplishment," said Asadoorian. "We had some positives today, like the play of our offensive line, and we can build on this. The goal moving forward is to eliminate the mistakes that hurt us today and go from there."