TOWNSEND - Running the ball has always been one of the hallmarks of Fitchburg High School football, and Friday night was no exception.
The Red Raiders rushed for six TDs spread between three different ball carriers, as visiting Fitchburg churned out a solid 41-24 win over North Middlesex Regional at the John E. Young Memorial Field.
The win lifts FHS to 2-3 on the season, with Groton-Dunstable Regional up next. North Middlesex drops to 2-3 and makes the journey to Kelleher Field next Friday night to face Marlboro.
It wasn't an easy victory as it looked, as Fitchburg held a slim, 21-16 lead at the break.
But it was nearly all Red and Gray in the second stanza, as the offensive line continued to open holes in the North Middlesex defensive front.
"Our game plan was to come in and run the ball, there's no question about it," said second-year Fitchburg coach Dan Walker. "That's the strength of our team. Our kids fought and did what we were supposed to do.
"We made no adjustments. We saw how they were lining up. We ran a couple of plays to the weak side. We kept doing it."
It all started as Demetrius Williams (8 carries, 116 yards) went up the middle on second-and-2 from the NM 32, not stopping until he crossed the goal line for the score. Gaston Pastorino's kick gave Fitchburg a 28-16 lead.
Fitchburg got the ball back on a John Boutwell fumble, but didn't do anything with the ball on the ensuing possession. But after punting, the Red Raiders got the ball back three plays later as Paul Duenas picked off a Boutwell pass in the end zone.
Enter Julio Gonzales, and three plays later, the senior went up the middle and turned on the afterburners en route to a 68-yard touchdown run.
"They are big and physical," said longtime North Middlesex head coach Sandy Ruggles. "We certainly hung for a half."
Gonzales finished the night with 18 carries for 252 yards and a pair of TDs.
"Julio is all heart," Walker said. "He's one of the leaders of this team, and I'm happy for him.
North Middlesex would drive down to the Fitchburg 1 as it looked to carve into the Red Raiders' 19-point lead. But the ball carrier, as he stormed toward the end zone, lost control of the ball before crossing the goal line.
Fitchburg took over at its own 20 before Gonzales and Williams exchanged carries of 14, 21, and 14 yards. Williams capped the drive with a 13-yard score that rounded it out for FHS.
Fitchburg quarterback Darius Flowers also ran for a pair of first-half TDs, sneaking in on both.
Gonzales also scored from 28 yards away, bouncing off a defender en route to the end zone.
The Patriots took a 7-0 lead as Tyler Zech, a slashing back, scored from 25-yards out after the Patriots opened with an onside kick that they recovered.
Fitchburg answered immediately as Flowers scored from 4 yards away after Brett Boulanger returned the kick 38 yards to the NM 32, and Gonzales rushed for 26 yards prior to the score.
The hosts marched 63 yards on their next series, aided by a special teams mistake by Fitchburg. Seven plays after the mistake, Matt Wheeler drilled a 23-yard field goal with the first snap of the second quarter.
Gonzales then keyed the next Fitchburg drive, converting third-and-11 with a 21-yard run before scoring on the next play from 28 away.
North Middlesex took a 16-14 lead as Boutwell lofted a beauty of a pass to Dylan Woods for a 48-yard scoring strike, before Flowers gave Fitchburg the lead the rest of the way with 41 seconds left in the half.