LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- The Brockton High football team has been searching for a key win they could hang their hats on all season.
After alternating wins and losses in the first seven weeks, the No. 9 Boxers finally put together to wins in a row when they bested No. 14 Leominster, 14-6, on the road at Doyle Field on Friday night.
“It was huge,” said Brockton senior receiver and defensive back Micah Morel. “We’ve been waiting to get that two wins straight to get the ball rolling and pick up some momentum going into the late part of the season. We want to get on a nice run. This was definitely a big win, because Leominster is a really good team.”
The Blue Devils (5-3) only found the end zone once despite moving the ball pretty well all night. They finished with 316 yards of total offense, led by Garrett DelleChiaie’s 225 passing yards.
“They moved it in the middle of the field because they’re a good team and their very well-coached,” Brockton head coach Peter Colombo said. "We talked to the kids all year about adversity, and bending, but always hanging tough. The kids believe they can stop other teams.
"I love our defense, and they’re getting better all the time. That’s a really good team and holding them to six is not easy.”
Early on, it looked Leominster was headed for a night filled with offensive fireworks.
After they forced a turnover on downs on Brockton’s game-opening possession, DelleChiaie hit a wide open Jake Allain for a 55-yard strike on what looked like a blown coverage. Kervin Jean-Claude chased him down from behind, finally bringing down with a desperation dive at his legs from behing.
The next play Shane O’Donnell cruised through a huge hole the offensive line created for another five yards. Just as it looked like Brockton didn’t have an answer for anything Leominster was doing, Jean-Claude forced stripped Mayson Williams on the next carry and the Boxers came away with the ball.
The Boxers went the other way but eventually stalled out and gave the ball after another turnover of downs. Leominster took over at their 33 with 2:40 left in the first, and a false start sent them backward before they could even get a snap off.
The false start, however, was the only thing that didn’t go right on that drive. DelleChiaie tossed a play-action pass to Neil O’Connor in the flat and he raced 26 yards for a first down. He caught the next pass, a 12-yard out pattern that moved the sticks again.
O’Donnell went 14 yards up the middle on the next handoff, setting up a first down at the Boxer 20. DelleChiaie dropped back and floated a ball to the back left corner of the endzone that came down in O’Connor’s outstretch hands for a touchdown just 1:17 after the drive began.
A bad snap meant Leominster didn’t get a point after try off but they had a 6-0 lead and a ton of momentum.
Brockton, which rushed for 264 yards in the win, benefitted from a late-hit penalty on the ensuing kickoff. They went to work on a 10-play drive that last just over five minutes and went 51 yards before quarterback Austin Roberts followed his offensive linemen into the endzone on a 1-yard keep play up the middle.
Levon Merian’s kick was good and the Boxers led 7-6.
Brockton’s defense forced Leominster into a turnover on downs on the ensuing drive, taking over at their own 33.
Aaron LeClair made sure the Boxers extended their lead on the next drive – and he never he touched the ball. On the third play of the drive, he took two linebackers out of the play with blocks that sprung Luis Jimenez for a 37-yard gain. The next play, he played the role of lead-blocker again, this time putting a linebacker flat on his back Roberts scampered in from 13 yards for another score.
“I’ll have to credit Ralph Roberts,” Colombo said. “He coaches our wideouts and they’re blocking the hell out of people. Aaron is a great blocker.”
LeClair put an end to Leominster’s attempt at adding a quick score before the half when he picked off DelleChiaie on the next drive. He took the ball 41 yards the other way before being forced out of bounds.
A penalty moved the Boxers backward as time wound down, and Merian’s field goal attempt from 36 yards had the distance but hooked just wide as the half ended.
The third quarter was controlled almost entirely by Leominster’s offense. Their opening drive lasted just shy of four minutes and ended in a turnover on downs. Brockton went three-and-out – their only three offensive plays of the quarter – resulting in a punt back to the Blue Devils.
For the remainder of the quarter, Leominster held the ball but couldn’t get it into the endzone. Brockton finally forced a turnover on downs on the second play of the fourth quarter.
“Ending the third quarter without giving up a point was a big lift for us,” said Morel. “Everything clicked together. We played with a lot of passion. There was a lot of communication. Talk, talk, talk. Just making sure everyone was in the right position.”
Brockton followed up with a lengthy drive of its own, running just over seven minutes off the clock before punting in a fourth-and-8 from their own 41. Justin Ahanon’s punt finally settled at the 8-yard line, giving Leominster a long field and long shot at a comeback win.
After advancing the ball as far as the 34, DelleChiaie tossed a pass deep down the left sideline into double coverage. De’Andre Brown raced under the ball for an interception.
Brockton picked up a first down when Roberts took an option-keeper 11 yards up field on the next possession and was able to take knees from there to end it.
The Boxers spread out the yards in the win.
Roberts had 14 carries for 67 yards (and was 2-for-3 passing for 33 yards), Ricardo Calixte had 12 carries for 60 yards, Leclair finished with 54 yards on nine carries and Jimenez had 49 yards on four carries.
AERIAL ATTACK NOT ENOUGH
Interceptions aside, DelleChiaie had a pretty impressive day throwing the ball for the Blue Devils. He went 13-for-19 passing in the win while accounting for 225 yards through the air. O’Connor was his top target all night, catching seven balls for an impressive 111 yards in the loss.
Allain was the only other person with more than one catch, and he had two of them for 73 yards.
While the passing game picked up plenty of yards, the running game was never able to their feet underneath them, and finished with just 91 total yards on the ground.
“It’s one of those games where we just couldn’t get the ball in,” said Blue Devils coach Dave Palazzi. “They played us tough and really locked us down when we got inside the 20. It was tough to connect. We had a few new wrinkles in there but we just didn’t make the plays today.”