TOWNSEND -- Coming up with a game plan to stop one good running back is tough enough, but trying to stop three is nearly impossible. Such is the lesson that the North Middlesex football team learned Friday night. Wachusett's trio of Scott Tupper, Sammy Rivera and Trevor McNeil combined for 205 yards and five touchdowns on 30 carries to lead the way in a 48-21 victory over the Patriots at John E. Young Memorial Field.
"We got beat by a better team tonight, it is as simple as that," said North Middlesex coach Sandy Ruggles. "I thought we made a couple of mistakes that came back to hurt us, and in the end they just made more plays than us."
After forcing a punt on the opening drive of the night, the Mountaineers got to work, putting together an eight play, 67-yard scoring drive. The key play came on a 37-yard completion by Scott Beardsley to Jon Lucier that moved the ball down to the Patriots' 20. Three plays later, Scott Tupper capped things off by going off the right tackle for a 16-yard scoring run to make it 6-0.
On their next two possessions, Wachusett put together a pair of scoring marches to increase their lead. A six-play, 47-yard drive was capped off by a Tupper one-yard TD run. After recovering a Patriots fumble, the Mountaineers needed just four plays to cover 38 yards, getting a Sammy Rivera eight-yard scoring run off the right side to finish things up as the lead grew to 21-0.
North Middlesex gained only 20 yards on their first three drives, but got a pair of big plays to get on the board. Starting on their own 17, the Patriots went to the air as John Boutwell connected with Bryan Croteau for a 39-yard gain down to the Wachusett' 44. On the next play, Brandon Lambert took a hand-off on the left side and raced 44 yards untouched for a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-6 with 8:35 to play in the second quarter.
A Rivera 40-yard kick-off return set up the Mountaineers just 37 yards from the end zone and they needed seven plays to reach it. Trevor McNeil did the honors this time, going straight up the middle and in from two yards out for a score. McNeil added the extra point to make it 28-6 heading into the locker rooms.
The Patriots forced a turnover on downs and capitalized on the big stop to draw within 14. A six-play, 67-yard drive was keyed by the arm of Boutwell. The sophomore quarterback connected on both of his attempts for 55 yards, the last of which found Croteau on a quick slant that ended up covering 32 yards for a touchdown. Boutwell hit Joe Dolciotto for the two-point conversion to make it 28-14.
With momentum on the home side, Wachusett quickly put away any thoughts of a comeback by scoring twice within a 47-second span. Tupper ended a 54-yard, five-play drive with a 43-yard scoring run down the left sideline. After an interception, the Mountaineers caught a break as Tupper fumbled at the five going in and Owen Gibbons recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown that made it 42-14.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Boutwell picked up his second scoring throw of the day as he connected with Lambert for an 11-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal. Ben Ferro added the PAT to make it 42-21 before Wachusett added a late score to account for the final.
"I am extremely proud of how the kids played tonight," said Ruggles. "We knew we had an uphill battle ahead of us and we never gave up. Now we turn our attention to Nashoba and trying to end this season on a high note."