Boston High School: Aaron Conrad

BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – The fourth of quarter of Friday’s instant classic between No. 1 Barnstable and No. 16 Bridgewater-Raynham was rife with hairpin plot twists and explosions. Every expanding moment brought more drama, heightened tension and – assuredly on both sidelines – greater anxiety. It was the stuff of Jack Bauer tracking down bad guys, MacGyver defusing a bomb threat, or a John Le Carré spy novel. Or maybe it was a little of all those things rolled into one -- and then some.

For whatever you care to call it, in recent memory, the yearly date between the Red Raiders and Trojans has morphed into a de facto championship game for the Old Colony League.

Friday’s edition was but another spellbinding chapter.

Barnstable clung to a 27-25 lead behind an opportunistic defense before putting the game away in the final moments with the Red Raiders tallying their third interception of the game. In the process, Barnstable (8-0, 2-0) claimed its second-straight OCL championship and will return to the postseason, again to face Dual County League large division champion Lincoln-Sudbury in the Div. 1A Eastern Mass playoffs.

“Last year is a distant memory at this point,” Red Raiders head coach Chris Whidden said. “It feels great for this group, these guys have done so much together, and they were obviously a big part of last year, but there’s a pride in what they accomplished today.

“They derserve it. I know every coach can say that the group of kids you have deserve it, but if you really knew these kids, you’d know they truly have done more than most classes would do to get what they got tonight.”

Barnstable showed its defensive mettle after a lack-luster showing against Billerica a week ago.

Jason Frieh (sack, 2 TFL) led the Red Raider defensive line bringing the pressure, but the contributions came from all around. Barnstable’s defense pulled off a unique hat trick of interceptions, with one pick coming from a member at each level of its unit. Frieh seized momentum for the Red Raiders early in the second half with a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, inside linebacker Andrew Ellis collected a pick of his own before free safety Hayden Murphy closed out the victory with an interception with 1:03 remaining.

Frieh’s pick-six extended the Red Raiders’ halftime lead to 21-6, but the Trojans (5-4, 1-1) responded on the ensuing drive in the third with a 10-play, 74-yard drive capped by Jordan Cohen’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Scripter.

Barnstable again made it a two-possession game on Nick Peabody’s second touchdown pass of the game, a 31-yard connection to Tedaro France with 7:31 to play in the fourth.

From there, a dizzying sequence unfolded that was made for an episode of “24”.

Events between the time 7:14 and 4:03 of the fourth quarter included:
  • An 82-yard kickoff return by B-R’s Ryan Martin, (Score: 27-19, Barnstable, following failed two-point try).
  • A fumble recovery by the Trojans on Barnstable’s following kickoff return, (Devin Morris’ forced fumble was recovered by Mike Clifford, setting up B-R first and 10 from the Red Raiders’ 20-yard line).
  • Ellis’ interception, (setting up Barnstable first and 10 at their own 15).
  • Strip-sack by B-R’s Aaron Conrad with Trojans recovery by Kevin Johnston at the Barnstable 5, (5:33 to play).
  • 2-yard rushing touchdown by Brandon Gallagher, (Score: 27-25, Barnstable, 4:03 remained).

Following that frenetic sequence -- keep in mind there were only seven plays from scrimmage elapsed during that span – Barnstable had a chance at closing out the game by bleeding the clock. But the Red Raiders’ ensuing drive sputtered flat once it hit the 50-yard line. Barnstable was forced to punt, but a masterful 41-yard punt from Ryan Litchman was downed at the Trojans’ 6-yard line.

With a long field to go, B-R went to its 2-minute drill with 1:45 to play. The comeback ended at 1:03 when a last-ditch pass by Cohen was fielded by Murphy.

His dancing acumen aside, ESPN Boston Mr. Football challenger and Barnstable quarterback Nick Peabody showed he’s got moves on the field.

Peabody (12 of 22 passing, 201 yards, 2 TDs) ripped up the carpet on a rambling 54-yard run in the first quarter. After juking a B-R safety into last Friday, Peabody broke down the left sideline before being chased down at the 1-yard line. He plunged into the end zone one play later for Barnstable’s second touchdown of the game.

“We were reading the end on the play, and he kind of flew out with Hayden [Murphy],” Peabody said. “I just saw the hole, I hit it and there was just one safety. I was kind of shocked, I guess I put a move on him.

“Then, to be honest, I was scared I was going to get caught and I got caught on the one-yard line.”

While Peabody will never be mistaken for a Randall Cunningham-like quarterback, he’s still able to make plays with his feet. He ran for 78 yards on 15 carries, including the touchdown. A bulk of those yards came on zone read plays with Peabody pulling back an option to Murphy, who streaks across the field from the slot. It was a bread-and-butter play that Barnstable’s run successfully on Friday and throughout the season.

It’s yet another element that has made the Red Raiders offense so potent.

“We drill it until it makes you sick, but that’s what makes it work,” Peabody said.

If you placed this year’s B-R team in the year 2013, there’s a real possibility the Trojans are playing through a playoff stretch.

While the MIAA playoff proposal has passed, it didn’t come soon enough for the Trojans, who will again challenge for the dubious title of “Best Team in Massachusetts Not Playing past Thanksgiving” this year.

“I look at our team, we’re five-and-four and we’ve lost to two teams that are undefeated, another team in St. John’s Prep that has one loss and La Salle could play with anyone [in Massachusetts],” Trojans head coach Dan Buron said.

Don’t interpret that statement as sour grapes though. Buron was downright grateful following his team’s loss.

It was evidenced on the Trojans’ final offensive play. As his players shuffled – dejected – back to the sideline, Buron met each and every one of them with a pat on the shoulder pads and the message: “Don’t hang your heads.”

“I told the kids they shouldn’t have any regrets and they should be proud,” Buron said of his postgame breakdown with the team. “I’ve never been more proud of a team because there were a couple of times in this game we could’ve folded.”

Barnstable – 14 0 7 6 -- 27
Bridgewater-Raynham – 0 6 7 12 -- 25

First quarter
B - Dylan Morris 35-yard pass from Nick Peabody (Jason Frieh kick)
B - Peabody 1-yard run (Frieh kick)

Second quarter
B-R – Kevin Wadsworth 11-yard pass from Jordan Cohen (kick failed)

Third quarter
B - Jason Frieh 21-yard interception return (Frieh kick)
B-R - Ryan Scripter 17-yard pass from Cohen (Wadsworth kick)

Fourth quarter
B - Tedaro France 31-yard pass from Peabody (kick failed)
B-R - Ryan Martin 82-yard kickoff return (pass failed)
B-R - Brandon Gallagher 2-yard run (rush failed)

Recap: No. 21 B-R 32, Xaverian 27

October, 20, 2012
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -– The enormous gust of wind that blew over the Bridgewater-Raynham football field late Saturday afternoon wasn’t a meteorological phenomenon.

Rather, it was Trojans coach Dan Buron exhaling after his team held off Xaverian and posted a 32-27 non-league victory.

And “held off” is the operative phrase.

After the No. 21 Trojans (4-3) seemingly put the game out of reach, when Jordan Cohen threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Murphy for a 32-20 lead with 2:22 remaining, the Hawks (1-6) needed just over a minute to reduce their deficit when Austin DeCarr threw a 20-yard scoring pass to A.J. King and Kyle Darrow kicked the extra point.

Not surprisingly, Xaverian then attempted an onside kick. But much to Buron’s chagrin, Xaverian’s Ryan McLean smothered the ball at his team’s 42 with 1:40 remaining.

DeCarr (24-48, 290 yards, TD) then passed his team to a second-and-goal at B-R’s 5 with four ticks of the clock left. But DeCarr’s pass for what would have been the winning touchdown fell incomplete in the end zone which allowed Buron to breathe.

“That’s a good football team,” Buron said of Xaverian. “I don’t care what their record is. We play a tough schedule but one that’s not nearly as tough as the one they do. And they’ve been in every game so I knew they weren’t going to quit.

“I’m proud of the kids. I’m a little upset that we didn’t get the onside kick but we have to work on those things. It’s different in practice.”

To a certain extent, this was a different B-R team than the one that was waxed 41-24 on October 12 by Rhode Island Division I power La Salle Academy.

“We played with a little more intensity today than we did last week,” Buron said. “I don’t know what the reason was for that. I thought the week prior to that we played with a lot of intensity and emotion against St. John’s Prep.

“That’s a good team and we came out on the short end but I was proud of the kids. We didn’t look like the same team (against La Salle). But today we looked more like the team we had in our first five games.”

Double trouble: One reason the Trojans prevailed was that they were proficient both on the ground and in the air.

Brandon Gallagher led the ground game by rushing for 90 yards and one score on 21 carries.

Jordan Cohen was superb at quarterback as he completed 13-of-19 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns –- each to Murphy who snared eight balls for 150 yards.

“I thought Jordan played well today and hit the open receivers,” Buron said. “What they were giving us was the flat and he hit the flat all day which opened up some other things.”

One of the “other things” that was opened up was room for Gallagher to slice through Xaverian’s defense.

“Gallagher is a tough running back who runs hard,” Buron said. “When the blocking’s there he’s going to get extra yards. When there isn’t any blocking, he’s still going to get extra yards. Very rarely does he go backwards.

“He’s a strong runner and is only a sophomore so he’s only going to get better. But I’d like to credit the offensive line, too. I thought they played well in the second half against a much bigger defensive front.”

How do you spell shootout? After a scoreless first quarter during which each team lost a fumble, B-R’s Aaron Conrad recovered another Xaverian fumble on his team’s 14.

B-R then covered 86 yards in eight plays with Gallagher busting into the end zone from the 5.

Xaverian countered with an eight-play, 64-yard drive which Shayne Kaminski capped by scoring on a 25-yard run that made B-R’s lead 7-6.

B-R, seemingly in an eye blink, upped its lead to 12-7 when Cohen connected with Murphy on a screen pass that covered 20 yards for a score.

But DeCarr displayed his best passing of the game after the ensuing kickoff when he completed all five of his attempts for 80 yards which led to Kaminski running it in from the 2 for a 13-12 lead at halftime.

The Trojans got even late in the third quarter when Conrad intercepted a DeCarr pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown that gave B-R an 18-13 lead at the break.

But a short Xaverian punt gave the Trojans excellent field position, at their 40, and Cohen zipped a 17-yard touchdown pass to Murphy on the first play of the fourth period for a 25-13 advantage.

Buron’s sentiments about Xaverian being a team that doesn’t quit almost came back to haunt him when the Hawks’ D.J. Sperzel recovered a fumble on B-R’s 49 -– which led to a five-yard scoring run by Harry Walsh that pulled the Hawks within 25-20 with 5:02 left.

“Everybody on our schedule can beat us,” Buron said. “That’s the problem with playing a tough schedule so we have to come to play. Most every game we’ve been in has come down to the wire so we have to prepare for it.”

XB (1-6) 0-13-0-14 – 27
BR (4-3) 0-12-6-14 – 32

Second quarter
B – Brandon Gallagher 5 run (run failed)
X – Shayne Kaminski 25 run (Kyle Darrow kick)
B – Ryan Murphy 20 pass from Jordan Cohen (pass failed)
X – Kaminski 2 run (pass failed)

Third quarter
B – Aaron Conrad 33 interception return (pass failed)

Fourth quarter
B – Murphy 17 pass from Cohen (Kevin Wadsworth kick)
X – Harry Walsh 5 run (Darrow kick)
B – Murphy 23 pass from Cohen (Wadsworth kick)
X – A.J. King 20 pass from Austin DeCarr (Darrow kick)