BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- When the Millis-Hopedale football team played against East Bridgewater at Bridgewater Raynham on Saturday, just about every player looked ready for a knockdown, drag out kind of tussle, in which they peppered each other with jab after jab looking for the eventual win.
East Bridgewater's Owen Harrington looked more the part of a prize fighter with knockout power as the Vikings slipped past the Mohawks, 28-21.
The Mohawks landed the first blow, marching nine plays in just under five minutes to score on the opening drive. After Chris Ahl opened the game with a 24-yard return, Millis/Hopedale used a steady running attack to grind down the field. Quarterback Sean Heffernan threw his first pass of the day on a third-and-goal from the three, connecting with Joe Caretta for a touchdown.
East Bridgewater didn't need nearly the time of possession, nor total plays to tie things up, because Harrington took the ensuing kickoff 83 yards straight up the middle of the field for the game-tying score.
"That was an absolute backbreaker for us," said Mohawks coach Dale Olmstead. "We had a great drive moving down the field to score, and we really thought we had punched them a bit, but he punched right back."
M/H used the remainder of of the first quarter to set up its next score, as they put together another marathon drive, finishing the quarter still with the ball - meaning EB didn't run an offensive play in the first.
Heffernan connected with Sager Dasai for a 24-yard touchdown pass to open the second quarter, on the 10th play of the drive.
After a touchback, EB quarterback Mike Kelly authored an impressive response for the Vikings. For the next 8:30, the Vikings matriculated the ball toward the other end, finally hitting pay-dirt on a 2-yard dive to cap a 15-play drive.
Kelly finished the day with 50 rushing yards on seven carries, and was a perfect 2-for-2 passing, including an impressive 16-yard heave to Jake Pierce with just two minutes to go on a long third down.
"Mike ran the offense very well, I'm very happy with him," EB head coach Shawn Tarpey said. "He did just what I wanted him to do - take what they give you, make a couple plays in the pass game, get north and south and don't try to do much. He did all of that today."
The Mohawks maneuvered the ball back into the Vikings' red zone before halftime, falling short of a score when the drive halted at the 9-yard line. When the teams reached the locker room, the score was knotted at 13 and M/H had out-gained EB, 188-70, on offense.
Harrington made the yardage look a lot more even, while unevening the scoreboard on just the second play of the second half. He took a handoff toward the right hash mark, and by the time he hit the line of a scrimmage a big hole had formed. He plunged through and never looked back, racing 61 yards for a score.
Even the heavy hitting of Harrington couldn't knock off M/H right there, and the Mohawks followed with another impressive and lengthy drive that culminated in a score by Ahl. A 2-point conversion was successful, and M/H grabbed a 21-20 lead.
After the kickoff, Harrington needed just one play to remind everyone what he was capable of. He dashed 63 yards to the Vikings back ahead, this time for good. A 2-point conversion made it a seven point game.
"We've had some stud players, and maybe Owen is going to be one of those guys," Tarpey said. "I'm not going to anoint him that just yet, but he had a great game. The thing is, he's worked his butt off and he's really wanted this. I can't say enough about him."
EB sealed the win in the final minute when Sean Pierce, who had a game-high nine tackles, intercepted a pass just past midfield. A knee by Kelly ran the remaining seconds off the clock.
Harrington finished with 166 rushing yards on 16 carries, and had 100 return yards to go with his three scores in the win against a team led by Jon Baker, a supremely talented lineman headed for Boston College next year.
"Our O-line was pretty amazing, especially on how they handled Baker. I just saw big holes and went right through," Harrington said. "I'll definitely be thanking the offensive line for what they did out there."