SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. -- Of all the numbers that usually get piled up when these two Cape Cod rivals square off, here's the one that ought to stick out the most: five.
Yes, just five points separate Dennis-Yarmouth and Barnstable in their last three meetings together, the latest another instant classic won in the waning minutes by D-Y, 28-27, to make it two straight in this series for the Dolphins.
It was a packed atmosphere at Dennis-Yarmouth with close to 5,000 lining the fences and bleachers for what is becoming one of the Cape's biggest rivalries. And once again, Dolphins dual-threat quarterback Matt Montalto had a flair for the dramatic in front of a big crowd. It wasn't his most well-oiled game, but he still ended up with 200 yards through the air and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead with eight minutes left in the contest.
"My line stepped up on that play, that's all I've got to say," Montalto said. "They stepped up. They gave me the three yards I needed. That was one of the biggest plays of the game, three yards [and] I reached out, saw the ball go over the goal line and knew I was in."
A botched D-Y punt return with five minutes to go in the third quarter gave Barnstable new life at the Dolphins 20, and they capitalized, with Kadeem Bailey (84 all-purpose yards) taking an option pitch from 10 yards out to give the Red Raiders a 21-20 lead late in the quarter. But the Dolphins responded with a seven-minute, 12-play, 83-yard scoring drive, aided by a late hit on fourth down deep in Raiders territory. Montalto plunged through the middle on an option keeper from five yards out, stretching across the goal line for the score, and then found Dylan Hodsdon at the near pylon on the point after for the 28-21 lead.
Folks in Hyannis will be talking about head coach Chris Whidden's decision to go for two rather than kick an extra point, after Theo France's three-yard touchdown dive with 2:11 to go. Quarterback D.J. Crook (273 passing yards, 2 TD) was stopped short of the goal line on an option keeper, and the Dolphins ran the clock out with the help of a few key first down dives from fullback Joe Furness.
For the record, Whidden said the decision had nothing to do with his kicker, who missed a 25-yard field goal earlier in the contest but was 9 for 9 on extra points in last week's 65-0 blanking of Durfee.
"We win as a team, we lose as a team," Whidden said. "I didn't want to put it on one kid's foot and have him responsible for the whole outcome. The coaches, we talked about it during the drive, and it's on the whole group, not just one kid."
He continued, "I have all the confidence in the world in him, he's a great kicker. It's just, it's a team effort, and I wanted to make sure as many people as possible felt accountable for what we did."
Said D-Y head coach Paul Funk, "I would have went for two, too."
Some other key points from the game:
Johnson on elite status: After tonight's first-half performance, we should go ahead and stitch Damion Johnson's name along with Montalto's into the ESPNBoston Mr. Football Watch List. The 6-foot-2 senior ended up with seven catches for 125 yards and scores, and has put himself into the conversation as one of the state's most talented wideouts -- if not in the very least one of the most physical at jump balls.
Early on, the Raiders pressed Johnson tight in man coverage (literally, you could probably stick a credit card between him and his defender) only to watch him rip through his man, charge down the sideline and pluck a high fade out of the air. When they backed off, he took advantage of the space and made a few nice catches off 10-yard curls.
In the first half, Johnson caught two such fades for touchdowns. A third one, muscled through double-coverage, set up Joe Furness' one-yard plunge that gave D-Y a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Whidden is a defensive guy, and as one might expect the Raiders adjusted by shading the safeties and deploying double, sometimes triple coverage. Johnson had two catches in the second half, for 39 yards. But a bold statement was made tonight.
"I knew he was one of their best players, if not their best player, and I knew he was a very, very good player -- [but] I think I even underestimated him," Whidden said. "He's a phenomenal player. If I'm a college coach and I'm anywhere near Cape Cod recruiting, I'm all over Damion Johnson. He's a hell of a football player."
Crook gets rolling: Last year's meeting between these two schools was a forgettable one for Crook, who threw five picks (including one to Montalto, who didn't play any defense tonight). In his fourth and final year under center, the 6-foot-2 Crook is not yet a finished product, but gained respect from the opposition tonight, some of the players remarking, "He played a lot smarter."
At times last year, Crook seemed to rely on short passes to All-State wideout Jordan Henderson and was thought to be mechanical at times. Tonight, he distributed the ball evenly to a half-dozen receivers, including Dylan Morris (six catches, 99 yards), Tedaro France and Bailey.
Barnstable's receiving corps boasted advantages both in size and speed against the Dolphins' secondary, and Crook was able to hit them in stride, finding the most success on crossing routes. When flushed out of the pocket, he was able to turn things around and connect with one of several speedy targets for a deep pass downfield.
For those keeping score at home, Crook is now 16 touchdown passes away from the state all-time record.
Promising against the pass: At 5-foot-9 and a twig-like 150 pounds, junior Kevin Hardy doesn't look the part of a ball-hawking free safety. But he, along with fellow junior safety Ryan Litchman (also undersized at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds), made things difficult back there. Couple that with two juniors at linebacker in Bryan Hardy and Andrew Ellis (a tri-captain and Division 1 prospect), and you have a stout defense that could be stingier come Old Colony League play.
Fleeting France: Theo France ripped off runs of 33 and 10 yards to start the second half to keep the D-Y defense honest, and finished the night with 69 yards rushing and another 23 receiving. Whidden was encouraged by his performance, which could provide the right balance to an offense that's been pass-happy the last few seasons.
"He's a tough kid," Whidden said. "He proved last week and this week that we can be a multi-dimensional team. I mean, he put a lot of work in during the offseason, and he wanted to get to the point that he's at. He's a threat. He gives us a good run game."
Slowing it down: D-Y has been known in the past few years to go with a high-octane, no huddle pace. Tonight was a different sight, Montalto getting the play in from the sidelines and reporting to a huddle.
Allow Funk to explain:
"We went no-huddle against Taunton [a 41-7 win last week]. It's hard against them [Barnstable], it's a track meet and we don't have enough kids. We will be no-huddle throughout the course of the year. We pick our shots, but there's so many kids on that team playing that it's tiring. You gotta pick your shots. We're playing everybody both ways."
DENNIS-YARMOUTH 28, BARNSTABLE 27
BA (1-1) 0 14 7 6 --- 27
DY (2-0) 14 6 0 8 --- 28
D - Damion Johnson 10 pass from Matt Montalto (John Terrio kick) 8:46
D - Joe Furness 1 run (Terrio kick) 5:12
B - Nick Peabody 17 pass from D.J. Crook (Tom Mullen kick) 3:38
B - Tedaro France 21 pass from Crook (Mullen kick) 1:30
D - Johnson 18 pass from Montalto (kick failed) :27
B - Kadeem Bailey 1 run (Mullen kick) 7:46
D - Montalto 5 run (Dylan Hodsdon pass from Montalto) 8:25
B - Theo France 3 run (rush failed) 2:11