For the first time this year, the Dracut Middies C Pop Warner team found themselves losing a game and went into halftime down 14-7 to the 12-0 New Hampshire state champions from Amherst in the semi-finals of the New England Pop Warner Regional play-offs.
The whirling winds, icy temperature and frozen tundra at Lampson Field certainly didn’t help much as the harsh conditions affected both teams. It seemed that Dracut’s unbeaten season was on the brink of ending. Sensing that his boys were feeling sorry for themselves, Coach John Hall broke out a classic speech to rally his team to a 38-14 victory.
The undefeated 13-0 Middies will travel to Worcester next week to face the 13-0 Connecticut state champions from West Haven for the championship of the New England Pop Warner Regional play-offs. The winner of this game will advance to the Pop Warner Super Bowl, where eight teams from across the country will compete for the national title.
Amherst took the opening kick and slowly marched downfield with several first downs, thanks to their concise and sound inside running game. The Middies’ D tightened up and held the Patriots on a fourth-and-one play to take possession at the Dracut 30-yard line. Three plays later, the Middies were up 7-0 after an Aise Pream 47-yard touchdown run and Devin Lambert extra point. Matt Rossetti’s cut-back block was instrumental on the play.
Amherst promptly responded with 80-yard scoring drive as they pounded the ball downfield with excellent blocking to close the gap 7-6. The Patriots’ onside kick was successful as the second quarter started, with Amherst in great field position. Once again, Amherst’s strong disciplined running game and outstanding ball fakes confused the Dracut defense as the Patriots punched in the go ahead score. Their extra point kick was good putting the Middies behind 14-7. Dracut struggled mightily to move the ball on offense against Amherst’s 10 men in the box defense as the half closed.
Dracut came out enthusiastic to start the third quarter with the needed adjustments to stop the Patriots. Amherst attempted another onside kick, but the Middies recovered to set themselves up at midfield. Linemen Michael Canney, Nathan Ripley, Michael Tusa, Kyle Proulx and Anthony Marquez started to fire out of their stances and delivered quick wallops that stunned the Patriots’ defenders allowing the Middies to pull closer, 14-13, on Pream’s 5-yard run.
Dracut’s onside kick was successful as Devin Lambert grabbed the ball at the Amherst 40. The Middies turned the ball over on downs but stopped Patriots in their tracks on a huge fourth-down tackle by Nathan Ripley at the 49-yard line. One play later, Dracut pulled ahead 19-14 as Lincoln Lessard burst up the middle and went untouched into the end zone behind great blocking by Tyler Middlemiss, Alex Reis, Max Barton, Javier Faria and Jared Fahey as the quarter ended.
Dracut dialed up the pressure in the fourth quarter as nose tackles Gilbert Ruiz, Charlie Kefauver, Jacob Nadreau and Jacob Beaulieu filled their gaps. The Middies’ secondary of Eric Ariosus, Matt Simpson, Lucas Ibarguen and Peter Sawyer cheated up to the line of scrimmage as Denis Bourassa, Yan Gonzalez and Ethan Holt continued Dracut’s increasingly physical play.
Devin Lambert’s second fumble recovery of the day stopped Amherst on their next series setting up another 50 yard blast up the gut by Lincoln Lessard. Lessard’s score put Dracut ahead 25-14. Amherst fumbled the following kickoff to Aise Pream, giving the Middies another scoring opportunity. Devin Lambert’s quick spin move from 15 yards out along with Matt Simpson’s extra point catch improved Dracut’s lead to 31-14. With 6 minutes remaining, Amherst made a final attack to get back into the contest after a botched kickoff and 15-yard penalty on the Middies, but Dracut made another outstanding fourth-down stand deep in their own territory. Aise Pream’s 60-yard touchdown sprint finished off the Patriots and finalized the 38-14 score.