AYER -- Ayer-Shirley held a six-point advantage at half-time, but it could not keep the Bromfield-Maynard steeds at bay Friday night at Harold Norton Field.
Bromfield-Maynard exploded for 28 unanswered points in the second half to roll over the host Panthers, 40-20. Bromfield-Maynard junior fullback Bryan Kiley lit up the Panthers defense with 14 carries for 169 yards and 3 touchdowns.
"They imposed their will on us in the second half," first-year Ayer-Shirley head coach Billy Wright said. "The kids reacted well to the run in the first half. In the second half, they just could not sustain the effort they had in the first half."
Ayer-Shirley drove 67 yards to the end zone on its first drive of the game. The Panthers consumed 7:56 on the seven-play TD drive.
A bruising 17-yard run by senior fullback Ryan Richards (3 catches, 57 yards) set Ayer-Shirley up nicely at the Bromfield-Maynard 12-yard line. Zak Walker scampered up the middle for a gain of five to put the Panthers in striking distance, but a couple of miscues brought up a fourth-and-goal from the 21.
Instead of opting for the field goal, Wright made the gutsy move of going for it on fourth-and-21, and it paid off. Zak Walker (11-of-20, 159 yards, 2 TD) was flushed out of the pocket by the Bromfield-Maynard defense, and threw across the grain to a leaping Dre Carmona in the back left-corner of the end zone for a 6-0 lead.
Bromfield-Maynard wasted no time as it started its drive at the Ayer-Shirley 37. After a strong stand by the Panthers' front line, Bromfield-Maynard quarterback Zach Boermann faced a third-and-16 from the Ayer-Shirley 38-yard line as the quarter came to a close.
It took the Tigers' offense just 11 seconds and one play to punch it in on a deep bomb down the heart of the field to Kiley, with 10:49 remaining in the second. The extra-poiint attempt missed its mark, and Bromfield-Maynard and Ayer-Shirley were deadlocked at 6-6.
On the next Panther drive, Zak Walker showed off his mobility. He rolled out to his left and hit Ryan Richard down the left sideline for a huge gain of 45 yards. The big play moved the Panthers down to the Bromfield-Maynard 15-yard line. Zak Walker and company would not be denied.
The senior quarterback dropped back and fired a laser to his brother, Alex Walker (4 catches, 38 yards, 1 TD), in the back right corner of the end zone with 45 seconds left in the half to put Ayer-Shirley back in front, 12-6.
Unfortunately, the Panthers' half-time lead would not stand as Kiley caught fire for the Tigers in the second half. Stephen Peterson scored the Tigers' first touchdown of the third quarter on a, 8-yard counter off tackle to make it 12-12.
Kiley then housed a pair of rushing touchdowns from 41 and 31 yards to put the Tigers in front, 26-12.
Bromfield-Maynard made it four unanswered touchdowns in the second half to extend its lead to 40-12, but Ayer-Shirley refused to back down quietly. Sophomore Joe Marchietti accumulated 55 yards on four carries, and added a touchdown with 3:17 remaining in the fourth.
"It is a work in progress," Wright said. "We are getting better each and every week. We are trying to get everyone some playing time. We had some bright lights tonight. Joey Marchietti did a really good job for us. Hopefully, he will be ready to go for us more. We played our best half all season against a good football team. Hopefully, we can end the season in the losers' bracket with a few wins."