AUBURN, Mass. -– It was a win, but it was an Auburn win, and thus you know the drill by now.
“Usually that don’t happen, they gotta ask me first,” Rockets head coach Jeff Cormier shouted off in the distance with a chuckle as his star running back, Tyler Desjardins, was greeted by a reporter. “I’m gonna have to [discipline him].”
Desjardins retorted sheepishly, “I talked to Sull [assistant coach Sean Sullivan],” to which Cormier shot back a wisecrack with a look that was one part smile, one part Don’t you dare try anything stupid.
But really, when you run for 286 yards and three scores on just 11 carries, running behind a line that averages 280 pounds across and features Division 1 recruits, you have to be a special breed of naïve not to defer due credit. It was the Desjardins show only on paper, as the Rockets rolled rival Northbridge 39-7; the proof was between the hashes.
“Our line, inside run, personally this is the best game they’ve played,” Desjardins said. “I can’t do anything except run behind them all game. I’m very proud of them.”
And what characterizes this as their best game?
“Hustle, always running to the play,” Desjardins said. “Always opening up the holes, the holes were fantastic today. I’ve never ran through bigger holes. My fullback [Bobby Sivret], awesome job. Our D, lockdown once again. I mean, it was just awesome. It was perfect.”
Behind the feared front five of Aaron Dyke, Will Greelish, Steve Domenick, Jordan Giampa and Matt Ramirez, the Rockets’ varsity put up 447 yards of offense against the Rams (7-2), with all but 14 yards coming on the ground. Desjardins led the way with 286 yards, while Sivret added 88.
Cormier shared similar sentiments to those of Desjardins.
“Tonight I thought was amongst their better efforts,” Cormier said of the line. “I give them credit. When things are on the line, and we’re trying to win a league championship...tonight was a real big game, and our kids showed up to play.”
The Rockets scored on their first two drives of the game, both on Desjardins scampers. The senior scored his first on a 21-yard dive up the middle, capping a five-play, 59-yard game-opening drive. Northbridge went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, but pinned a punt at the Rockets’ one yard line. No problem for Desjardins, as five plays into the drive he followed Sivret up an outside gap and took off for daylight, 75 yards for a score to cap a five-play, 99-yard drive.
Less than seven minutes into the contest, and Desjardins had already broken the 100-yard barrier.
“The line blocked out, and I just followed my fullback,” he said. “He set one clean block, open field, gone, it was perfect. That play could not have gone any [more] perfect.”
The Rockets tacked on another score from Mark Wright to go up 20-0 in the second quarter before Northbridge could respond, a four-yard quick slant from quarterback Matt Phelan to receiver Jake Ryan. But with five turnovers, the Rams struggled to sustain drives, all the while the Rockets marched up and down the field in unison.
Pick and Stick: Of the five turnovers committed by Northbridge, the backbreaker was Tim Bryan’s 70-yard interception return that made it 32-7 with a minute to go in the first half. For the most part, the Rockets’ defense did a good job funneling things to the middle of the field, where safeties like Bryan delivered some rattling hits on would-be receivers. Most of Northbridge's gains came on short drive routes, quick bubble screens to the sidelines, or scrambles up the middle from Phelan when flushed out of the pocket.
Bryan’s return was the creation of two key actions. First, Giampa came up through the A-gap and delivered a hit to Phelan’s midsection, resulting in an duck of a ball off Phelan’s fingertips, coming over the middle high and underthrown. After Bryan pounced on the ball, he broke for the near sideline, and senior linebacker Kyle Langer spung him loose for the final 50 yards with a great seal block.
“I said to Kyle, the collision was exceptional, but [the key] was more of putting himself in a position to make a good, clean hit to spring him loose," Cormier said. "I thought it was a great senior play.
“He’s a kid that’s been around a while, Langer has, and there are times you don’t take the right ankle, that’s a block on the side and it’s called. But he really got himself without question in front of him, and put a really good block on him, gave us a little more room for Tim Bryan to reach the end zone.”
AUBURN 39, NORTHBRIDGE 7
NBR (7-2) 0 7 0 0 --- 7
AUB (9-0) 12 20 7 0 --- 39
A – Tyler Desjardins 21 run (kick failed) 8:31
A – Desjardins 75 run (rush failed) 4:03
A – Mark Wright 2 run (rush failed) 6:49
N – Jake Ryan 4 pass from Matt Phelan (Ryan kick) 2:43
A – Desjardins 75 run (rush failed) 2:30
A – Tim Bryan 70 interception return (rush failed) 1:07
A – Dom DiCarlo 14 pass from Drew Goodrich (Desjardins kick) 8:01