MARLBOROUGH -- North Middlesex made its way up 495 for a clash with undefeated league foe, Marlborough. For the first 22 minutes, the Patriots held the potent Marlborough offense scoreless, but it would not last long.
The Panthers exploded for 20 consecutive fourth-quarter points to fend off the feisty North Middlesex squad, 20-6, at historic Kelleher Field. Marlborough was led by its mustang in the backfield, senior Willy Cowdrey, who rushed for one TD and 155 yards on 18 carries.
"We played a very good game against a very good football team," long-time North Middlesex head coach Sandy Ruggles said. "They made some big plays in the second half against us. Pick your poison, they've got some good weapons. They have some great skill players."
North Middlesex deferred to the second half on the kickoff. Marlboro started its first drive of the evening on senior night, marching 65 yards down into the red zone. North Middlesex's defense had its backs against the wall following an 18-yard scamper by Cowdrey to the Pats 9-yard-line.
Marlboro quarterback, senior captain John Rumney, airmailed a pass into the end zone for junior Matt Thall, but North Middlesex defensive back Cam Clermont was in prime position to break up the play on fourth down with 3:19 left in the first.
The Patriots took over on their own 9-yard line. Junior North Middlesex signal caller, John Boutwell (8-of-13, 81 yards, 1 INT), connected with sophomore wide-out Ryan MacDonald for a pick up of 16 yards on the play.
But on the following play, Marlborough linebacker Alex Santiago wrapped up Boutwell in the backfield for a five-yard loss. Boutwell, however, kept the drive alive with a beautiful teardrop flair pass to Dylan Woods (11 carries, 40-yards 1 TD) down the left sideline, for a gain of 17. After the 17-yard reception by Woods, the Patriots were in good field position on their own 40-yard-line.
Woods continued to impress with some hard-nosed gritty running down the North Middlesex sideline for a gain of 10 to get the Patriots into the Marlboro territory at the 49. But, the drive fizzled out as Boutwell's screen pass to Ryan MacDonald was bobbled, which brought on the punt team.
Late in the first half, with under two minutes remaining, Boutwell led his team down the field in the hurry up offense. North Middlesex brought the ball down inside the Marlboro 20 after a 15-yard reception by Woods.
But Woods came up short of the first-down marker, which brought up a fourth-and-two from the Panthers 12-yard-line. Boutwell dropped back to pass, and targeted Ryan MacDonald on the goal line, but was picked off as time expired by Thall.
The Panthers broke the stalemate with 7:10 remaining in the third quarter. Cowdrey broke free from a would-be tackler and seized the right corner en route to the end zone for a 15-yard scamper. Kevin Chilin tacked on the extra point to make it 7-0 Marlboro.
Marlboro would tack on another touchdown five minutes later, this time on a Rumney dart to Thall. Rumney connected with Thall on a crossing pattern in the gut of the field for a 38-yard reception to make it 13-0. Chilin's point-after attempt missed its mark wide left.
The Patriots took over on the ensuing kickoff, but they were unable to get anything going. Matt Wheeler came on to punt. Marlborough took over on the North Middlesex 30-yard line.
Rumney tossed his second TD of the night on a deep 20-yard bomb to Thall, who made the over-the-shoulder snag in the back-left-corner of the end zone with 8:39 remaining in the fourth.
Despite being down 20-0, Ruggles' Patriots refused to pack it in. North Middlesex took over, pinned deep in its own territory. The Patriots were forced to punt yet again after Boutwell went down on a quarterback draw up the middle. Boutwell had to leave the game on the play, but returned on the next series.
Following the punt, Marlborough took over on its own 25-yard line. On second down, Rumney was unable to secure the shotgun snap from his center, and senior linebacker Zak Davis fell on the ball to put the Patriots' offense in business at the Marlborough 27-yard line.
Woods steamrolled his way up the middle for a pick-up of 11 yards. But on the ensuing play, the Patriots offensive line sprung Woods down the right sideline for the touchdown. Woods took the corner and somersaulted over the goal line with 3:58 remaining.
"If we can beat people, they can beat us," Ruggles said. "This is a great league to play in. Our kids came to play, and we got banged a little bit in the second half. We have to regroup and get ready for next week."