DUXBURY, Mass. -- It’s a common adage on offense that you put the ball in the hands of your playmakers.
Well, to the same extent, Duxbury football head coach Dave Maimaron does that with his best defensive player. Maimaron, along with defensive coordinator Harry Taylor, entrust senior inside linebacker Marshall McCarthy with the ability to make his own decisions on the field. A three-year starter at his position, McCarthy is the quarterback of the defense, responsible not only for his own actions, but that of the unit.
With the game on the line against Xaverian on Saturday with one second remaining and a fourth-and-goal try from the 9-yard line, McCarthy again did what comes naturally.
“Smart Marshall, we call that,” Maimaron said of the defensive call. “He picks a hole and he goes.”
In this instance, McCarthy chose the A-gap and went barreling through, meeting Hawks quarterback Austin DeCarr in the backfield for sack. When the play was through, time expired and the Dragons escaped with their state-best winning streak in tact after a 20-16 win.
“Our guys, they just know when they’re down there that they’ve got to pick it up,” Maimaron said. “They just stepped it up every single time. Unfortunately, our offense kept putting them in that position.”
Duxbury (5-0) lengthened its winning streak to 31 games, but sweated out some tense moments late in the fourth. Twice in the final three minutes of the game, the Dragons were faced with goal-to-go situations and held. In addition to having a potential game-winning score erased off the board for Xaverian (1-4), due to an illegal procedure penalty, the Dragons were unrelenting.
“They brought some very good pressure on us,” Hawks head coach Charlie Stevenson said. “When you’re down in the red zone and it’s a condensed area, some times guys make those plays, some times they don’t. Two plays before that D.J. [Pagliuca] made the play, we score a touchdown, but it gets taken off the board.”
Two plays after Pagliuca’s aborted score, Duxbury senior defensive back Jack Sullivan broke up a pass attempt on the goal line to force a turnover on downs with 2:28 to play.
After forcing the Dragons three-and-out on their ensuing possession, Xaverian had one last shot at the end zone with 1:08 to play. Moving quickly downfield on a couple of pass plays from DeCarr (14 of 31, 233 yards) to Pagliuca (4 catches, 58 yards, TD), the Hawks were within 12 yards of a victory.
That’s when McCarthy (3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble) came calling again.
Duxbury won while lacking any kind of offensive rhythm. The Dragons were held under 200 offensive yards on the afternoon, thanks in no small part to the play of the Hawks’ front seven. Xaverian was able to pressure Duxbury quarterback Sean McCarthy throughout. Maurice Hurst Jr. notched three sacks, and rangy outside linebacker Aiden Desrosiers created havoc with two hurries and two passes defended with tipped balls at the line.
The Dragons were also able to dial up pressure at key moments. Starting running back Jon Hurvitz was asked to play a greater role on defense, playing slot corner. Hurvitz disrupted a promising first-quarter Hawks’ drive with a strip-sack. The fumble was recovered by Mike Klein.
“I give them credit, they’re a good football team,” Stevenson said. “They’ve won a lot games in a row, so they know how to win and they made the plays on both sides of the ball.”
RUN BEHIND THE BIGS
Of course, no Duxbury game this season would be complete without a touchdown or two by Hurvitz. While being held largely in check in the running game, the shifty 5-foot-9, 185-pound back was again a deciding factor. Hurvitz rushed for Duxbury’s second touchdown of the game for a 13-0 lead in the second quarter.
But it was a play in the passing game that gave Duxbury its margin for victory.
After Xaverian took a 14-13 lead with 6:13 remaining in the third on Shayne Kaminski’s 30-yard touchdown run, Hurvitz regained the lead for the Dragons with his second score of the game. Running to the left on a slip screen pass, Hurvitz turned upfield running behind the pull of offensive lineman Rob Kosharek, who was inserted at left guard on the play. Twenty-four yards later, the Dragons were back on top.
“We usually try to run behind our big boys and Kosharek’s obviously the biggest,” Hurvitz chuckled.
With the Dragons’ running lanes disrupted by the Hawks’ front seven, Duxbury had to find other means of opening up space.
“They’re a lot bigger than us up front, so we knew that coming in,” Hurvitz said. "We thought we could get some movement, but they plugged the holes pretty good, so we had to go to our outside stuff.”
Xaverian – 0 7 7 2 -- 16
Duxbury – 7 6 7 0 -- 20
Duxbury – J.P. O'Neil fumble recovery (Tucker Hannon kick)
Duxbury - Jon Hurvitz 10-yard run (Hannon kick)
Xaverian - D.J. Pagliuca 34-yard pass from Austin DeCarr (Kyle Darrow kick)
Xaverian - Shayne Kaminski 30-yard run (Darrow kick)
Duxbury - Hurvitz 24-yard pass from Sean McCarthy (Hannon kick)
Xaverian – Safety – Joe Gaziano sack