NATICK, Mass. -- Natick freshman quarterback Troy Flutie had 288 all-purpose yards for the Red and Blue, but his performance was not enough to knock off the visiting Walpole Rebels at home Friday night.
No. 24 Walpole (8-0) did not have a standout performer in the 29-20 victory. It instead used a variety of methods in order to take down Natick (4-4) -- including a return of a blocked point after touchdown attempt that gave the Rebels momentum late in the game -- and clinch a Division II playoff spot.
“It was a total team effort,” Walpole head coach Barry Greener said. “We don’t have that one guy -- it’s really just a bunch of guys that just keep fighting and that’s what happened here tonight.”
Greener stressed the importance of all phases of the game, but in particular his special teams unit.
As the third quarter ended, Natick was awarded a first and goal situation with the ball on the 2-yard line and trailing 20-16. The Walpole defense stuffed the run on three consecutive plays forcing the Red and Blue to go for it on fourth down.
Flutie stood in the pocket to deliver a 5-yard touchdown pass to receiver John Bishop to tie the game at 20. But on the ensuing point after try, Walpole junior Dan King burst through the right side of the offensive line to block the kick, and Chris Norberg took the loose ball 65 yards to the end zone.
Norberg’s scoop and score that Greener called “the turning point in the game” put the Rebels up, 22-20, and left Natick reeling after losing the momentum they had gained from the previous score.
Then Walpole put on a clock-management clinic, killing seven minutes in the fourth quarter on an 11-play drive, that spanned 62 yards and culminated in a 9-yard Troy Salvatore touchdown run. Salvatore was second in rushing for Walpole with 54 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns. The senior was 9 of 13 for 129 passing yards with a touchdown pass to sophomore Mike Rando.
“It was crazy,” Salvatore said of the win. “We were hard on the offensive line all week and they came out tonight and did a hell of a job blocking -- we were able to run the ball a lot -- and the defense stepped up.”
Running back Kenny Woods ran the ball 15 times for 115 yards for Walpole and was second in rushing only to Natick’s Flutie.
Natick’s offense struggled in the first quarter, but came back strong in the second. Flutie finished the game with 14 carries for 129 yards and a rushing touchdown, but also completed 10 of 23 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown.
Although he threw an interception late in the fourth quarter, in his second career start, Flutie looked calm behind center while being indoctrinated into the Natick-Walpole rivalry and the Bay State Herget.
“We told the kids coming in that this was going to be a tough game, Walpole [versus] Natick is always a war,” said Greener. “[Natick] is not a four-and-three team, they are a much better team than that.”
“We always battle, that is the thing about our kids” Natick head coach Mark Mortarelli. “Down fourteen-to-nothing, nobody was panicking. We got a couple of touchdowns quickly, and going into halftime we knew we had a chance.”
The win puts the Rebels in the driver seat of the conference and now has them eyeing a perfect record, but also keeping a lookout for No. 22 Weymouth in a heated Thanksgiving day clash.
“Now, we have to set a new goal,” said Greener. “Our goal now is to win the whole Bay State title.”
W 7 7 7 8 -- 29
N 0 14 0 6 -- 20
W- Rando 36 catch from Salvatore (Tim Crowley kick)
W - Rando 9 run (Crowley kick)
N - Flutie 36 run (Sam Lenson kick)
N - Glenn Duffy 2 run (Lenson kick)
W - Salvatore 1 run (Kick failed)
N - Bishop 5 catch from Flutie (W - Norberg 65 fumble recovery return)
W - Salvatore 9 run (Crowley kick)