LAWRENCE, Mass. -- Against Central Catholic, Cal Carroll found yet another way to impact a game. And this time, Methuen’s dual-threat quarterback wasn’t even on the field.
With eight and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, Central Catholic scored on a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Matt McDermott and trailed, 17-16. Conventional wisdom would have told Raiders coach Chuck Adamopoulos to tie the game with an extra point. But across the field, on the opposing sideline, Carroll loomed.
"I wanted to go for two because I thought our best chance to win the game was to win in regulation," Adamopoulos said. "I didn’t want to have to defend Carroll in overtime."
The Raiders’ two-point try failed and left them trying to catch up for the remainder of a wild fourth quarter that ended with Methuen taking its eighth straight win, 24-22.
"It’s awesome," said Carroll. "Methuen hasn’t been 8-0 in the [Merrimack Valley Conference] in a long time…To be on top feels great."
After Central Catholic’s failed conversion, Carroll made the Raiders’ comeback climb even tougher. He capped a 67-yard drive by hitting Bobby Cole on a 35-yard touchdown pass to make the score 24-16.
Down eight, Central Catholic had one last scoring drive left in them. The second half of the Raiders’ two-headed quarterback attack, Ben Onett (5-11, 65 yards), found Xavier Peralta (4 rec., 86 yards) in the end zone for a 23-yard score with 1:55 left.
Facing a two-point deficit, Adamopoulos was forced to go for two points again. The second try was similarly unsuccessful as the snap sailed over the head of running back Santino Brancato, forcing Brancato (10 carries, 45 yards) to fall on the ball for a loss.
Cole recovered the ensuing Central Catholic onside kick attempt to seal the Methuen victory.
It was a dramatic end to a firework-filled fourth quarter dominated by Carroll. He finished the game with a touchdown and 123 yards rushing on 28 carries, and 6-15 passing for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Both his touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter, and came with the Rangers’ leading receiver, Raudy Minaya, out of the game. Minaya left with a right knee injury suffered on a punt return late in the second quarter. He did not return.
Before Carroll’s touchdown pass to Cole, he started the fourth quarter by rolling out to his right to find Corey Shepherd for a 42-yard score. Shepherd was one of four Rangers receivers to catch a pass.
"Down the stretch everyone’s taking away our run," said Methuen coach Patrick Graham, who also watched his running back Ryan Savastano rush for 123 yards on 16 carries. "So we’re going to have to throw and [Carroll] has done a good job."
Methuen went into the half with a 10-0 lead after a Carroll one-yard touchdown plunge and an Eric Lacroix 29-yard field goal, but Central Catholic got those points back in the third quarter thanks to Cam Walsh.
Walsh kicked a 30-yard field goal to bring the Raiders within a touchdown of Methuen. Just over three minutes later, on Central Catholic’s next drive, Walsh (4 carries, 87 yards) took a handoff, burst through the line of scrimmage and sprinted 78 yards for the game-tying score.
Methuen answered with Shepherd’s touchdown catch and Central Catholic was left to catch up from there after McDermott (5-10, 58 yards passing) scored from two yards out and the following two-point try failed.
"It’s big," said Graham of the win. "There’s a lot of Methuen kids [on Central Catholic]. They grew up with those kids. They grew up playing with them in Pop Warner and other sports. When you lose to someone you don’t know, it doesn’t hurt as bad as when you lose to someone you do know."
- Methuen called up sophomore junior varsity center Dicky Aziz to play in place of starter Matt Whittaker, who missed the game with an injury. He fit into the Rangers zone blocking scheme just fine, helping to pave the way for 268 yards rushing. He also was on point with his shotgun snaps, as the Rangers’ offense almost exclusively uses the shotgun.
“[Aziz] did an excellent job,” said Carroll. “His snaps were all on target, and most of all he did a great job double teaming with our guards. That’s great to see we can trust him.”
- Methuen was unsure if Minaya would miss future games because of his injury. He was on crutches on the sidelines for the entire second half.
- This was Methuen’s third straight win over Central Catholic.
- Central Catholic continued to platoon quarterbacks as McDermott and Onett took the snaps on every other series.
- The national anthem was performed by six-year-old Olivia DiFiore, daughter of Raiders assistant coach Ernie DiFiore.
METHUEN 24, CENTRAL CATHOLIC 22
MET (8-1) 0 10 0 14 --- 24
CEN (6-3) 0 0 10 12 –-- 22
M – Lacroix 29 kick
M – Carroll 1 run (Lacroix kick)
C – Walsh 30 kick
C – Walsh 78 run (Walsh kick)
M – Carroll 42 pass to Shepard (Lacroix kick)
C – McDermott 2 run (run failed)
M – Carroll 35 pass to Cole (Lacroix kick)
C – Onett 23 pass to Peralta (run failed)