WOBURN, Mass. -- Well, that wasn't supposed to happen.
One would figure a Woburn team that one week earlier lost by 25 points to Acton-Boxborough shouldn't have been able to hold Nick LaSpada and the Billerica Indians to seven points, but it did in its 12-7 victory Friday.
It had Billerica (1-1) on its heels early in the first when Chucky Ortiz took a handoff to the right and ran untouched 71 yards for a touchdown to give his team the 6-0 lead.
“I just give all the credit to the line,” said Ortiz, who finished the game with 14 carries for 117 yards on the ground. “They opened up that hole and I saw it and I just ran.”
Woburn (1-1) held LaSpada, the dynamic senior quarterback, to under 100 yards in both rushing and receiving. He finished the game 8-of-17 for 93 yards and 2 interceptions through the air. He added 17 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“[Woburn head coach] Rocky [Nelson] did a great job defensively,” said Billerica coach Peter Flynn. “The Woburn kids played real tough. We couldn’t move the ball. They shut us down.”
LaSpada scored the only touchdown for Billerica when he ran a quarterback draw into the end zone from 5 yards out.
Woburn answered back three minutes later when quarterback Hunter Romano hit Dave Pratt with a 15-yard pass in the right corner of the endzone to put his team back on top 12-7.
A few other observations:
Turnover woes: With Woburn driving deep in Billerica territory ahead by five points with six minutes to go, it was evident the Indians would need a turnover to get back in the game. They got what they needed when Woburn quarterback Hunter Romano lobbed a play-action pass that went into the waiting arms of a Billerica defensive back.
Starting on its own 20, Billerica drove down to the Woburn in about three minutes. The drive was highlighted by a 36-yard catch-and-run from LaSpada to Matt Clifford. After the play was over, a Billerica player was whistled for a 15-yard personal foul penalty when he shoved a Woburn player after the play was over. This brought the team back to the 33-yard-line. On the next snap, Billerica was called for a false start, backing it up five more yards.
On the next snap, LaSpada was sacked for a loss of seven yards. In three plays, the team lost about 30 yards and precious time off the clock. Finally, facing a third down and very long, LaSpada dropped back to pass, was hit as he threw, which caused his second interception of the game. Woburn burned the rest of the time off the clock for the victory.
Locking up LaSpada: Woburn was able to do what every team in the Merrimack Valley Conference will try to do against LaSpada: contain him and get pressure on him. It utilized multiple blitzes to keep the fleet-footed quarterback from breaking off any long runs against its defense.
“We tried to change up our fronts and our coverages and send people to try to confuse him,” Nelson said. “We were in his face and he didn’t take a broken play and take it to the house. We contained him. We were sending our outside linebackers sometimes right from the line, sometimes inside. We had some line stunts that we put in that kept pressure on and we didn’t let him scramble and beat us like he did a year ago.”
The defense was able to sack LaSpada three times in the first half.
Staying their lanes: While the statistics show that LaSpada had close to 100 yards on the ground, the Woburn defense deserves credit for not allowing him to break off a big run. Of his 17 carries, only two went for 10 yards or more.
“We knew we could stop him, we know he’s human,” Ortiz said. “He’s one of us. He puts his pants on like everyone else: one leg at a time.”
LaSpada ran the ball only eight times in the second half.
Selling the fake: Romano didn’t throw the ball many times in the game (5-of-10 for 103 yards, 2 INTs), but when he did, it was often a play-action pass. His first two passes, which went for 44 and 34 yards respectively, were to wide open receivers. The Billerica defense was often so keyed in on stopping Ortiz and Anthony Mendonca (8 rushes for 35 yards), that Woburn receivers could run free into the secondary.
Extra struggles: Woburn had difficulty converting its PATs Friday. First, there was a bad snap on the field goal following the Ortiz touchdown run. In the third quarter, after the teams second touchdown, Ortiz fumbled the handoff on the two-point conversion. It appeared Clifford was going to run the ball back for Billerica, but Ortiz got to his feet, ran 95 yards, and tackled him on the 5-yard-line.
WOBURN 12, BILLERICA 7
WOB --- 6 0 6 0 --- 12
BIL --- 0 0 7 0 --- 7
W - Chucky Ortiz 2-yard run (Kick failed)
B - Nick LaSpada 5-yard run (Steve Trask kick)
W - Dave Pratt 15-yard pass from Hunter Romano (2-pt conversion failed)