Natick's Flutie sets state TD pass record

NATICK, Mass. -– Chalk up another record for Troy Flutie.

On Friday night against Needham in a Division 2 South non-playoff tilt, the Natick High senior quarterback tossed three more touchdown passes, to raise his four-year career total to 105, and bypass the previous state benchmark of 103 set by former Everett High great Jonathan DiBiaso in 2011.

“The record speaks for itself,” said Natick coach Mark Mortarelli after his team captured a 28-14 victory at Memorial Field to improve to 9-1. Flutie’s “numbers speak for themselves. Those numbers say what a great player he is. But what those numbers don’t say is the time he puts in, the work he puts in preparing, the film, the practicing, lifting weights (and) all that stuff. He’s a very hard worker and he deserves everything he gets.

“I’m just proud and happy for him.”

All three of Flutie’s touchdowns went to senior wide receiver Alex Hilger (seven catches, 87 yards). Flutie completed 16-of-21 passes for 201 yards and an interception. He also rushed 13 times for 78 yards.

Those in attendance for the Natick-Needham matchup –- a contest that pitted the reigning Bay State Conference (BSC) Herget champion against the BSC Carey titleholder –- did not have to wait long for Flutie to supplant DiBiaso’s mark.

The Redhawks signal-caller came out razor sharp in both his reads and passing accuracy. During Natick’s first two drives –- which Flutie first punctuated with the record-tying and then –breaking touchdown throws –- he completed 6-of-7 passes for 88 yards.

“I was seeing the defense well,” Flutie said. “We were all getting a good feel for what they were doing: kind of sitting back in the beginning. So, we were taking the underneath stuff. My receivers were playing great. My o-line gave me plenty of time.

“First touchdown to Hilger, he made a great play, a great route against that guy. Stuck the corner, ran the post, wide open. I just had to lead it to him . . . pretty much easy. The rest of them . . . to Alex, again, making great plays. He’s a great receiver: a big, tall target. The o-line did a great job all game. The coaches did a great job calling plays.

“It was a fun game.”

The record-breaking 104th touchdown came with three minutes remaining in the first quarter when Flutie found Hilger for a four-yard hookup in the left flat. Moving towards the sideline and just shy of the goal line, Hilger cut back towards the middle of the field, evading the Needham defender and enabling him to break free into the end zone thereby giving Flutie a six-yard touchdown pass.

“He ran a comeback,” explained Flutie. “So (Hilger) pushed (the cornerback) up like he was running a fade and stopped and turned to the side. I put it in a good spot for him. He made a nice physical play. I think he came out of the end zone and came back in just to finalize it. It was just a great route by him.”

“Troy and I . . . we kind of made eye contact,” recalled Hilger of the record-setting catch. “It said, ‘Come back at the goal line.’ It was a really special moment when I caught it and got into the end zone. I just felt so happy for Troy. I heard on the speaker that he broke the record and it was just an amazing feeling that I was a part of it and our team was a part of it.

“Everybody on our team feels very special.”

Hilger also hauled in Flutie’s first touchdown pass –- a 38-yard strike that highlighted a three-play, 62 yard drive just 58 seconds into the game.

Trailing 14-0, Needham responded with two straight scores to tie things up.

First, Rockets senior quarterback Ryan Charter snuck in from one-yard out with 7:07 remaining in the second quarter. Then approximately five minutes later, senior running back Mike Panepinto sprinted up the middle, nearly untouched, for a 17-yard touchdown. The score, however, was costly as Panepinto pulled up limping, apparently re-aggravating a hamstring injury he suffered earlier in the season against Westwood. It was his last snap of the night.

Natick responded in the final 1:47 of the half as Flutie marched the Redhawks 79 yards and again connected with Hilger for a score, this time being a two-yard touchdown 17 seconds before halftime.

The sequence also represented a stark contrast from last week’s Division 2 South semifinals against Barnstable when the Redhawks were outscored 13-0 over the final minutes of the first half as Flutie threw a costly pick-six interception.

“It felt good,” Flutie said. “Our offense played great and bounced back from last week. Big win for us. Good team. Great team, actually, Needham. That was for the Bay State championship pretty much . . . the two best teams in the Bay State.

“That drive at the end was huge. It slowed down their momentum and really put a punch into them and really hurt them.”

The Redhawks stretched their lead to 28-14 midway through the fourth quarter when Chad Kidd scored on a one-yard touchdown rush.

A third record to fall?

The Boston College commit now holds two MIAA passing milestones.

Back on Nov. 1, Flutie leapfrogged former Barnstable High quarterback and current Penn State backup D.J. Crook’s state record of 8,126 passing yards when he collected 359 passing yards in the Redhawks’ victory over King Philip.

On Thanksgiving Day when Natick hosts Framingham at Memorial Field, Flutie will have a chance to topple another state record: the single-season touchdown passes (44) mark, which is currently held by DiBiaso.

Flutie will enter the Nov. 28 contest with career passing totals of 8,698 yards and 105 touchdowns, along with 40 touchdown throws this season.