Naton stakes his claim at Hawk Bowl
October, 8, 2011
By Brendan Hall | ESPNBoston.com
WESTWOOD, Mass. -- When people talk about athleticism and versatility with the half-dozen or so lacrosse-bred football stars on No. 2 Duxbury's squad, this is what they're talking about.
Up by a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, Dragons head coach Dave Maimaron dialed up a screen play that produced a touchdown the previous week, but with a twist. Quarterback Matt O'Keefe pump-faked to sell a jailbreak screen over the middle; meanwhile, deep to the right sideline in single coverage, senior wideout Reilly Naton sold his man on a downfield block five yards off the ball and took off on a go route.
O'Keefe let it rip, and then held his breath for a split-second as Naton plucked the underthrown ball away from the Xaverian defender closing from behind, and marched 63 yards to paydirt. That made it 24-14 with eight minutes to go in the contest.
"I put way too much air on it, to be honest," O'Keefe said. "Reilly came down with it, and I thought that defender was going to bat it back. If I had missed that, I dunno if I would have been able to sleep tonight."
Said Naton, "We faked that screen and once I was even with the corner, I could hear him in the background, 'Oh crap'...when you hear that as a receiver, your eyes kinda light up and you're like 'Alright, I clearly have some moves'. He had a great throw, and it was just a great play by O'Keefe, too."
Asked about the underthrown ball, Naton continued, "He's been getting pressure in his face all game, and to throw a ball like that is just amazing. Thirty yards, and he had that big Maurice kid [defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Jr.], he played a hell of a game -- he was in our face all day, getting double-teamed all the time and making plays. But when he can throw it, boy, he's got the best arm I've ever seen. It's a blessing to have."
And thus the coming-out party for Naton -- who is committed to Yale for lacrosse and ranked 51st overall in the ESPNHS 100 as a long-stick midfielder -- was on. After not catching a touchdown pass the first month, and coming up with no catches in the first half of this one, he exploded in the final 15 minutes to put this one away. He finished the day with three catches for 91 yards and two scores.
Naton made the Hawks pay for jumping early on his first touchdown catch, the go-ahead on the first play of the fourth quarter, with a 10-yard skinny post to the middle of the field. The Hawks secondary jumped early on Joe Guilfoile's arrow route to the far pylon, and O'Keefe hit Naton perfectly in stride towards the goal posts.
Then with three minutes and change to go, Naton sealed it when he broke on an Austin DeCarr pass to the flat and came up with an interception. The Dragons eventually punched it in with under a minute for the 31-14 final.
"It's all coaching, they set us up for it," Naton said. "Every time they come out in that trips formation, we come out in the same play. Basically, it's impossible to run any plays on it, we've got every zone covered. Usually they'll throw the curl, but that time they threw the out, and clearly I was jumping the out, and it was important to come up and make that play."
Don Webber is considered far and wide one of the state's premier possession receivers, making Naton's presence all the more important on a day like today -- because, frankly, the Hawks did their best to shut him out of the offense.
This week, it was Naton, sparking Maimaron to remark after the game, "Glad he's wearing a white shirt and not a blue shirt".
Next week, it could be Guilfoile or James Burke, or Andrew Buron.
At this point, the Dragons are as well-oiled as one can expect.
"Reilly's awesome," O'Keefe said. "Webber is probably the best receiver, [or] one of the best receivers in the state, so he obviously gets a lot of attention. And Reilly and Burkey and Joe Guilfoile have been stepping up. Makes my life easy. It's a lot of fun."