FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Henry Narlee stood almost stoic near the podium looking over Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
His helmet gripped between both hands, the Duxbury linebacker spoke calmly of the Dragons’ suffocating defense. With hardly a smile, he discussed their second consecutive perfect season, now months removed from a shutout of Bridgewater-Raynham in the season opener.
“Really, it’s not what it seems,” Narlee said following Duxbury’s 35-0 thumping of Tewksbury team in the Eastern Mass. Division II Super Bowl. “I forget about last season. I don’t feel undefeated right now.”
Say that again?
“You get used to always looking at the next game,“ he explained. “You’re never really thinking about, ‘Oh, we’re 4-0’ or something. You’re just thinking about what’s next.”
It’s a safe bet "next" includes more sacks, tackles and wins for Duxbury, a South Shore powerhouse that’s built its success atop a defense as unmoved as its stars’ emotions.
Sure, the Dragons cheered and mugged for photos Saturday, taking a few moments to savor their fourth 13-0 season in seven seasons under coach David Maimaron and 26-game winning streak, the longest active in the state.
But unlike a year ago, when players milled around the concourse savoring a 35-13 victory over Concord-Carlisle for at least a few moments, the team shuttled off to its bus as quickly and efficiently as its defense disposed of an overmatched Tewksbury team.
They held the Redmen (7-6) to 12 total yards while building a 28-0 first-half lead. The combination of the Narlee and the 6-foot, 240-pound Mark Trudeau produced two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 2 ½ sacks. Seamus Connelly and Owen Grey were disruptive throughout. James Burke picked off a pass and (maybe) tipped a punt.
“I’ll say I did,” he said of a lame-duck punt in the first quarter he nearly devoured. “But honestly, I’m not sure.”
They’re all part of a defense built on speed and power that provides a reliable reflection of the program itself.
If they’re not perfect, few opponents prove it.
“I said it earlier: Coach Maimaron, he’s built an empire,” Burke said. “People are excited about the program. People are excited in the youth league. People just want to be a part of this. And it shows come Friday or Saturday when we’re out there winning 26 straight games. He’s built quite the program.”
Duxbury, of course, is blessed on offense: Quarterback Matt O’Keefe is one of the best in the state, and Jon Hurvitz punched out of Gillette with two touchdowns and 75 yards on just seven carries.
But on a day like Saturday, where the attack was slowed if not flawed at times (see two interceptions), the defense glazes over any shortcomings with play and after big play.
During one stretch in the second quarter, Narlee stripped Tewksbury quarterback Kevin Saunders of the ball, allowing Trudeau to pounce on it. On the first play of the Redmen’s very next offensive series, they exchanged roles, with Narlee’s fumble recovery after a Trudeau hit helping set up a Duxbury touchdown.
“They’re a dangerous two out there,” Burke said. “Owen Grey is on the other side, and Trudeau is a house. And Narlee is just one of those athletes. Getting him off the edge on the pass rush, it’s almost unstoppable. Not many tackles have the ability to come out and block him. He’ll be playing D-1 somewhere.”
Maimaron laid a ton of credit at the weight room door, where he said the team’s dedication not only transformed wiry athletes into powerful multi-tooled football players, but helped the team largely avoid injury the last two perfect seasons.
“They’re smart, they’re fast, they’re strong,“ senior lineman Gordon Acha said of the defense, which yielded just one third down conversion on nine Tewksbury attempts. “That’s all you need. It doesn’t matter how big you are, how small are. (If you’re) fast, smart, strong, you’ll win games.”
And thus the Dragons have. Twenty one seniors will move on this season, and likely, someone, somewhere will take their place.
Narlee, a junior, will have the chance to add a third Super Bowl title before he’s done. But as his coach called any last stragglers to the bus Saturday, Gillette Stadium was far from his crosshairs.
“I’m looking forward to B-R,” he said.