Rockland survives battle of SSL unbeatens

October, 16, 2010
10/16/10
2:17
AM ET


COHASSET, Mass. – Mike Driscoll was strewn out across the field with the crown of his helmet touching the goal line, his facemask planted into the turf. It was as though the air had slowly been let out of a balloon.

It was only the second quarter, but with Friday night’s South Shore League duel of unbeatens between Driscoll’s Rockland Bulldogs and the Cohasset Skippers shaping up to be a low-scoring struggle, he knew failing to get in on the two-point play could be costly.

“I was hoping it wasn’t going to come down to that. Thankfully, our kicker, Ricky Witt, put that kick through.”

Down 8-6 at halftime, after Driscoll fell an inch short of tying the game in the second quarter, the Bulldogs emerged from the locker room refocused and intent on taking it to the Skippers. Rockland embarked on an Odyssean 15-play drive that spanned nearly eight minutes of the third quarter, led by the bruising runs and blocks of Driscoll.

The result of that drive — a 20-yard field goal by Ricky Witt — coupled with Driscoll’s 117 yards on 23 carries and the persistence of Rockland’s defensive front would make the difference in the Bulldogs’ 9-8 win to remain undefeated at 6-0 and 3-0 in the South Shore.

“I have to give the kids a lot of credit for overcoming a lot of early mistakes in the first half,” Rockland head coach Ken Owen said. “We were only down two points at halftime and I think we felt fortunate to be in that situation the way we played early.

“We kept telling our kicker Ricky Witt that [he was] going to have to win a game for us, whether it be in overtime, It happened to be earlier in the game here, but I credit him for putting the ball through the uprights on a windy night.”

The Bulldogs had great field position to start the game, after Cohasset (5-1, 2-1) fumbled on the opening kickoff. Rockland’s offense took over at the Skippers’ 23-yard line. The Bulldogs were poised to score before Cohasset defensive lineman Kyrel Jaundoo scooped up a fumble by Bulldogs running back Tim Fitzgerald (13 carries, 53 yards) at the Skippers’ 3-yard line and returned it 61 yards to set up his team with good field position.

Three plays later, Thomas Flibotte (18 carries, 91 yards) hit paydirt on a 3-yard run. The following two-point try was successful with quarterback Jeff Cavanaro (8 of 14, 75 yards) hitting Robbie Mahoney in the end zone.

Rockland continued to be their worst enemy on the ensuing drive when Driscoll fumbled the ball into the hands of junior linebacker Sean McKenna.

However, the ensuing Cohasset drive stalled when the defensive struggle between the two teams began in earnest. Three times the Skippers were stopped with a yard-to-go and Rockland regained the ball via a turnover on downs.

The teams traded punts before Rockland gained its first legitimate offensive traction of the game. Driscoll capped a 17-play, 78-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. But his two-point conversion run fell short.

“We killed ourselves in the first half, we killed ourselves with two fumbles, both me and Timmy [Fitzgerald],” Driscoll said. “We messed up, but you can’t do anything about those. But, as we say, halftime is not our enemy, so we just came out in the second half and mowed them.”

It was then the Bulldogs made their game-changing charge with Witt’s kick proving the difference.

Then, it was just a matter of not giving the Skippers anything back.

“Our defensive interior and, in particular, Steven Copeland, they just had a great, great second half,” Owen said. “Of course, Brian Harrington plays well at defensive end, he had some nice stops on them, too. We were able to put a little bit of pressure on the quarterback and on the bootleg in the second half and I think that helped us in our pass coverage.”

Having survived another week unscathed, Rockland has the pleasure of looking forward to yet another matchup next week with an undefeated team atop of the South Shore standings — Abington.

“We knew it was going to come down to Abington and one of us,” Driscoll said. “Now, next week, we have the two of us.”

Rockland 0 6 3 0 -- 9
Cohasset 8 0 0 0 -- 8

1st quarter
Cohasset Thomas Flibotte 3-yard run (Robbie Mahoney pass from Jeff Cavanaro)

2nd quarter
Rockland Mike Driscoll 6-yard run (rush failed)

3rd quarter
Rockland Ricky Witt 20-yard field goal

Scott Barboza

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
Scott Barboza joined ESPNBoston.com as a high schools editor/reporter in May 2010. He spent the previous three seasons working in the New England Patriots media relations department after a stint at the Taunton Daily Gazette, where he covered everything from Little League baseball to the Boston Red Sox.

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