NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- It seemed as though the Barnstable defense was not going to let New Bedford running back Marcel DePina beat them by himself. The shifty Whaler back was limited to just 11 yards on 10 carries through the greater portion of three quarters in Friday night’s game.
But, with New Bedford trailing 17-15, DePina broke loose in the passing game. His 48-yard connection from Myles Medeiros was a Barry Sanders-like highlight to the Whalers’ 31-17 comeback win over the Red Raiders.
“It was a broken play,” DePina said of the game-winning score. “My quarterback [Medeiros] got it off and we got good blocking and then I just found the right spots on the field and got to the end zone.”
There were a multitude of issues at play as New Bedford (3-2) scored 24 unanswered fourth-quarter points.
First off was a risky maneuver on the behalf of Whalers head coach Dennis Golden. Trailing 17-7, Golden rolled the dice on a fake field goal pass play with the capable Mike Rapoza running on the bootleg left and hitting Nathan Ojuri in the back of the end zone with a 3-yard touchdown pass.
“It came from the fact that they’d blocked the first one,” Golden said of the play call. “It was a good opportunity for us.”
Next, the Whalers forced the potent Barnstable (3-2) offense three-and-out with quarterback D.J. Crook (13 of 19 for 135 yards) throwing his only pass attempt of the second half. Crook later confirmed to ESPN Boston that he dislocated the thumb of his throwing hand, apparently coming on a carry in the third quarter.
Junior Nick Peabody finished the game at quarterback for Barnstable.
“We didn’t know what was wrong with D.J. to start with,” Red Raiders head coach Chris Whidden said. “At first we thought there was something wrong with his elbow and then we realized it was his thumb.”
New Bedford continued their onslaught behind a highly efficient game from Medeiros, who finished 17 of 26 for 227 yards and one touchdown to go along with 53 rushing yards on six carries.
Medeiros put the icing on the Whalers’ victory with a perfectly placed 15-yard touchdown pass to Jaraud Wood, putting up a jump ball that only the rangy receiver could pluck.
The Red Raiders offense was prodigious in the first half and beyond in its screen game. Running back Theo France (11 carries, 81 yards, TD) found big holes underneath on the New Bedford defense with wide receiver Dylan Morris catching everything in sight in the flat.
It looked as though Barnstable had gotten yet another big play with a bubble screen on what would’ve been a 68-yard touchdown by France to tie the score. However, the play was called back on an illegal block penalty. The Red Raiders had yet another huge play whistled dead two plays later.
After those opportunities fell by the wayside, the Red Raiders were done in.
This Barnstable-New Bedford series has yielded some classics in recent memory with games in each of the last four years being decided in the fourth quarter, along with a couple on the game’s final play.
In the bigger picture, this was a potential season-shifting win for the Whalers. After getting roughed up by Top 10 opponents in Duxbury and Bridgewater-Raynham in the last two weeks, New Bedford was eager to snap a two-game losing skid.
“This gets our wheels turning,” junior end Tyler Arena said. “It boosts our morale and maybe next week we keep on rolling.”
As for Barnstable, the question surely to follow the Red Raiders in the coming weeks is the health of Crook. While Peabody, a natural wide receiver, showed that they’re in capable hands indeed if Crook cannot play, the loss of one of the top quarterbacks in the state would surely hurt.
SHAKE ‘N’ BAKE
As Golden puts it, DePina can simply do things on a football field many cannot.
“That’s what Marcel does best,” Golden said, commenting on DePina’s 48-yard score. “We don’t have anybody who can change directions like him; he can do it with the best of them. We’re fortunate he’s on our team.”
On the play, DePina shook no fewer than three Red Raiders defenders clear out of their boots on the way to rumbling upfield for the game-winning score. He’d also turned in a key 28-yard gain on a screen from Medeiros several plays earlier to set up the score.
While Barnstable, with talented junior linebacker Andrew Ellis, showed that DePina, if contained to running in between the tackles, can be slowed, there’s simply nothing a defense can do when he hits the open field. Coupled with the hard-nosed running of Rapoza (9 carries, 60 yards), that makes the Whalers that much more difficult to stop.
Barnstable (3-2) 7 3 7 0 -- 17
New Bedford (3-2) 7 0 0 24 -- 31
Barnstable Theo France 44-yard run (Tom Mullen kick)
New Bedford Mike Rapoza 7-yard run (Mike Rapoza kick)
Barnstable Tom Mullen 35-yard field goal
Barnstable Hayden Murphy 29-yard run (Mullen kick)
New Bedford Nathan Ojuri 3-yard pass from Rapoza (Tyler Arena pass from Rapoza)
New Bedford Marcel DePina 48-yard pass from Myles Medeiros (Jaraud Wood pass from Medeiros)
New Bedford Wood 15-yard pass from Medeiros (DePina pass from Medeiros)