Norton Edges Falmouth In Opener
Lancers hold off late rally by Clippers to capture season opener on Friday night.
Following a tumultuous off-season, there is no better way to start a new season than with a victory.
Even though there were some scary moments at the end, the Norton High football team did just that, opening the 2011 campaign with a hard-fought 20-19 win over Falmouth in a non-league contest on Friday night at Alumni Field in Mansfield.
“It was an excellent game,” said third-year Norton head coach Ted Currle. “Winning your first game is always huge. Anytime you win the moral is high the next week. We showed a lot of good things against a Division 2 team. We showed we can be a pretty good football team this year.”
The Lancers pulled out all the stops to get the win, starting with a fake punt on its fourth play of game. The team also rotated quarterbacks and players at several positions, using several different offensive formations to keep the Clippers confused and off-balance.
The result was a dominant first half in which Norton totaled nine first downs and 166 total yards, including 90 on the ground. At the same time, an ever-improving Lancer run defense held Falmouth to just 24 yards rushing in the opening half and just 18 yards total.
During its initial possession, facing fourth-and-eight from its own 33, Norton ran a fake punt with senior captain Tyler Durocher hitting junior Andrew Nartowicz for 21 yards and a huge first down. Lancer senior captain Nick Jenkins culminated the 13-play, 69-play drive with a four-yard scoring run. Senior Pat O’Malley converted the extra point and the Lancers held a 7-0 advantage with 5:35 remaining in the opening quarter.
After stopping Falmouth cold during its first possession, capped by a sack from junior Joe Colley, Norton took over at the Clipper 33 after a good punt return by Mike Ready.
It took the Lancers just five plays to increase their lead as Ready hit Durocher with a 13-yard scoring pass to give the hosts a 13-0 advantage with 39 seconds left in the quarter.
Norton had both good and bad luck during the second quarter. The good luck was on a lateral from Ready to Durocher, which Falmouth recovered deep in Lancer territory. But an inadvertent whistle blew the play dead with Norton being able to replay the down.
The bad luck came a little later in the period when a Ready pass down near the end zone bounced off sophomore Zach Sicard and into the hands of Falmouth’s A.J. Fernandes, who returned the ball all the way to the Clipper 47. It would be the biggest play of the half for the visitors, but it resulted in no points.
Norton finished the first half with 90 yards rushing with Colley leading the way with eight carries for 69 yards. Falmouth would hold the bruising fullback in check in the second half as he would finish with 70 yards on nine carries.
“They made a slight adjustment at halftime to take away our fullback, who had killed them in the first half,” said Currle.
Trailing 13-0, the Clippers finally got on the board in the third quarter as Fernandes hit senior wide receiver Brenden Murphy with a long 55-yard touchdown pass. The visitors could not convert the extra point, but had pulled to 13-6 with 3:23 left in the third.
Later, the Lancers looked to have clinched the victory after stopping Falmouth on a fourth-and-15 at their own 30. On the next play, Ready sprinted 30 yards for a score. An O’Malley extra point extended the Norton lead to 20-6 with 4:04 left in the game.
But the Clippers weren’t done as junior quarterback James Burke covered 67 yards on four passes, culminating with a 36-yard scoring pass to senior Deven Soares. Senior Matt Dineen hit the extra point and Falmouth was back within seven at 20-13 with 2:04 left.
“I thought we had them put away, but then we gave up that big pass play,” said Currle.
The Clippers then attempted an on-sides kick with newcomer James Keating, a transfer from Coyle-Cassidy, covering the ball at the Falmouth 48. The Lancers then looked to run out the clock as Ready gained 11 yards on first down and then got seven more yards on the next play before Falmouth senior linebacker Cody Murray ripped the ball out of his hands and headed back the other way. He rumbled 59 yards before Sicard knocked him out of bounds at the Lancer 11-yard line.
Junior Devon Green pulled the Clippers within one with a three-yard scoring run with 33 seconds left to make it 20-19. Falmouth decided to go for two, but the Norton front stopped Green one-yard short of the end zone and a potential win to keep it at 20-19.
“The turnover on that stripe shows that the game is never over,” said Currle. “We have to take care of the ball better.”
Sophomore Mike Travers basically ended matters by falling on the ensuing on-side kick. Norton still had to run out the clock, though, with Jenkins gaining three yards on first down and senior quarterback Gary Portway capping the night with 10 yards on the next two carries to run out the clock and give Lancers a much-deserved victory.
“It was a sign of the young team we have that early in the season we weren’t able to put them away, but we will continue to get better,” said Currle.
The Norton offense finished the game with 13 first downs and 265 yards, including 180 on the ground. Ready had a terrific game behind center, gaining 74 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown. He was also 5-for-8 passing for 58 yards and one touchdown.
“Ready really gave us a dual threat in this game,” said Currle.
Along with his 21-yard pass, Durocher had three catches for 33 yards. Sicard contributed to the offense in several ways, running three times for 11 yards. He also had a six-yard pass and had two receptions for 25 yards. Jenkins finished with 23 yards on seven carries.
“I was thrilled that we found some good players tonight that are young,” said Currle.
Falmouth had six first downs and 164 total yards in the second half, including 132 passing yards. Murphy had two catches for 68 yards and Soares had four for 64 yards.
But the Norton defense held Falmouth to 50 yards rushing in the game on 24 carries.
“We played great run defense all night long and ran the ball well,” said Currle. “Our run defense has gotten much better.”
Norton will face another test next week when the team travels up to Reading to face Austin Prep in a non-league game on Saturday morning at 11 a.m.
“You can make big improvements from your first game to your second game and we will be looking to do that this week,” said Currle.
It won’t get any easier for Falmouth, either, as the Clippers will open their home schedule by hosting Hockomock League power Foxborough next Friday night at 7 p.m.