FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Dartmouth Indians have found a way all year long, so it was fitting that it came down to the final minute in their Division 3 state championship game against Melrose.
With just 13 seconds left to play, senior Jacob Rose flew across the field from his safety position to pick off Red Raider quarterback Jake Karelas' desperation heave, and seal a 14-7 victory for the Indians.
For Dartmouth (11-2), it was a day of hanging on. After building a 14-0 lead in a dominant first quarter, the Indians leaned on their defense and running game to close things out. Clearly, it was a strategy the Dartmouth players were comfortable with.
"I think the defense, really, was the key to this whole season," senior linebacker Seth Oliveira said. "They stepped up every single game and made so many plays. It's unbelievable what this team has accomplished this year."
Dartmouth's big first quarter began with a one-yard touchdown run from junior Chris Martin. The run capped a 12-play, 73-yard drive that ate up over five minutes of clock on the Indians' first drive.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Indians got the ball back, and wasted little time adding to their lead.
With Martin again leading the way, the Indians marched down to the Melrose 12-yard line, where junior Alex Tisdelle bounced it outside and ran in for another score.
The quarter ended with Dartmouth out-gaining Melrose (10-3) 118 yards to 4, but things would get substantially tighter once the second frame began.
The Indians failed to cash in on other opportunities in the second, coming up empty on their next drive, despite having first and goal at the Melrose 4-yard line. The Red Raiders would make Dartmouth pay, going 75 yards in just three minutes. The key play of the drive came when Karelas found sophomore Michael Pedrini for a 29-yard gain down to the Dartmouth two-yard line.
The next play, with just 40 seconds left in the half, senior Jack Hickey punched it in to make it 14-7.
Though they would not score again, the Indians would mount a pair of time-consuming drives, twice holding the ball for more than five minutes and bleeding the clock. Plenty of that time was eaten up by Martin, who finished the day with 215 yards, 112 in the second half.
"We were able to get those big first downs in the fourth quarter when we had real bad field position off a punt," coach Rick White said. "Chris Martin was able to break a couple big ones."
But it wasn't quite a perfect finish for Martin, who broke off a 51-yard run that appeared to ice the game. But, as he was being brought down by William Caffey, the ball came loose, and Christian Pizzotti pounced on it for the Red Raiders.
"Unfortunately, we fumbled down at the end there," coach Rick White said. "But it ended up being as good as, actually, better than a punt. They had to go the whole length of the field, and the D stepped up again."
Rose's interception in the game's waning moments ended things and completed the journey for Dartmouth.
"We just played as a team (this year), no matter who's in, always supporting the other guy and giving 110 percent effort," senior quarterback Blaine Almeida said. "We did it!"