TOWNSEND -- Misty, wet conditions were present at John E. Young Memorial Stadium as North Middlesex hosted Groton-Dunstable in its homecoming match-up.
The first installment of the "Border War" rivalry went to the Crusaders as Groton-Dunstable rode the shoulders of its starting senior quarterback, captain Quintin Forbes. Forbes put on an absolute clinic for the maroon and white, rushing for 124 yards and 3 TDs, on 19 carries to lead Groton-Dunstable past North Middlesex, 26-7. Forbes was 5-of-13 passing for 80 yards and 1 TD.
"Quintin is our leader," Groton-Dunstable head coach Derek Asadoorian said. "He stepped up and moved to quarterback. He has done a great job. He is like a coach on the field. Quintin was making his reads. That's our offense. We were executing effectively."North Middlesex trailed 14-7 at half, but in the end, Sandy Ruggles' Patriots had no answer for the hard-nosed Crusaders' offensive attack.
"That was a big key play to keep us in the ball game before the half," Ruggles said of the touchdown reception by Ryan MacDonald. "They did a great a job. We have some kids who certainly played but we got beat by the better football team here tonight. No ifs, ands and buts about it."
Groton-Dunstable won the opening toss and deferred to the second half. But the Crusaders defense forced the Patriots to a three-and-out on their opening possession and took over at their own 6-yard line, following a block-in-the-back penalty.
The methodical approach by Groton-Dunstable helped put it in Patriots' territory. Joey Orlando kick-started the Crusaders' opening drive with a 28-yard scamper down to the North Middlesex three-yard-line. Then it was Forbes who dove headfirst over the goal line for the touchdown. The Crusaders took a 6-0 lead with 4:23 remaining in the first quarter.
Groton-Dunstable would score again before the end of the half. Forbes linked up with Orlando for a 26-yard gain down the North Middlesex sideline to put the Crusaders at the North Middlesex 17-yard line. North Middlesex's defense pushed the Crusaders to third-and-eight, that's when Forbes took over. Forbes caught junior receiver Drew Moore in stride at the 11-yard line. Groton-Dunstable took a five-yard illegal procedure penalty and was backed up to the 16-yard line.
That was no problem for the Crusaders' signal caller. Forbes waggled his way around the left side for a 16-yard bruising romp into the end zone to put the Crusaders up, 12-0. Forbes then took the two-point conversion attempt off tackle and converted to put the Crusaders out in front, 14-0, with 4:36 remaining in the half.
North Middlesex got on the board just before half-time, when Boutwell found MacDonald streaking down the left sideline. MacDonald caught the ball at the 16-yard line and stiff-armed a couple of would-be tacklers en route to the end zone with 54 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Kicker Matt Wetherell's extra-point attempt sailed through the uprights, to make it 14-7. That's where it would stand as the two teams went to the locker room.
In the second half, Groton-Dunstable put the game well out of reach. Five minutes into the second half, Forbes dozed his way across the goal line for his third rushing touchdown of the night, to put the Crusaders up 20-0.
A costly fumble by the Patriots at midfield with 5:20 remaining in the third was recovered by the Crusaders at their own 48-yard line. With 1:29 remaining in the third, Forbes found the speedster Moore down the North Middlesex sideline in the back-corner of the end zone to make it 26-7. Moore did a nice job tapping his left foot in bounds to ensure the touchdown. Corey Romich's extra point missed its mark.
North Middlesex failed to get anything going offensively in the later portion of the half. But Ruggles' bunch did not quit.
"We go from here right in the frying pan against Fitchburg," Ruggles said. "We as a team have to come out and work hard. We have our work cut out for us next week. This is a good win for them (G-D). We'll lick our wounds and move on."
North Middlesex was led on the ground by Boutwell who rushed for 46 yards on 11 carries. Boutwell was 5-of-3 passing for 64 yards and 1 TD. MacDonald led the Patriots with five catches for 44 yards in the loss.
Groton-Dunstable moves into its homecoming week when it hosts Algonquin (0-3). Overall, Asadoorian was pleased with his team's effectiveness.
"We had a couple of tough games against some tough teams and we knew we had to come out and play hard at North Middlesex," Asadoorian said. "We had to play them on their homecoming. It's the first game in a rivalry that's probably going to be around for a while. I thought our guys stepped up."