- Scott Barboza, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. – Hockomock League rivals Attleboro and North Attleborough were equals through much of their Thanksgiving Day clash. The Blue Bombardier and Red Rocketeer lines roughed each other up, sloshing through a muddied turf at North.
Tied 7-7 in the fourth quarter, No. 19 North controlled play with a sustained drive that set the Red Rocketeers up with a first-and-goal from the 9-yard line.
However, after a pass attempt and two rushes fell short of the end zone, North’s season came down to a fourth-and-goal at the 1.
Then, North quarterback Spyro Varetimos entered the huddle with a purpose.
“He said, ‘We’re running this in for the championship,’” senior captain Paul Norris said. “Everybody just kind of lifted up at that point.”
Varetimos crossed the goal line with 5:24 remaining and Big Red held on for a 14-7 win over their town border rivals. With the victory, North (9-1, 3-1 Kelley-Rex) earned a share of the Hockomock large division title. And, although the Red Rocketeers’ season ended then and there, due to a tiebreaker won by King Philip, there was an air of accomplishment held by the teammates, not disappointment.
‘We’re co-champions of the league, that’s all we could’ve asked for,” Norris said.
Varetimos had a hand in all of North’s points, connecting with Alex Jette on a 33-yard touchdown pass to open scoring in the second quarter.
North’s lone defensive gaffe of the game came at the end of the third, when Blue Bombardiers running back Malique Clark broke off an 85-yard run to close the quarter.
The Red Rocketeers’ built their game-winning drive off the ensuing kickoff, chewing up more than four and a half minutes of the fourth.
Varetimos (12 of 20, 80 yards, TD; 9 carries, 31 yards, TD) broke the plane of the goal after his previous lunge from the 1-yard line was stopped.
“On that final drive, in the huddle, you could just feel the tension,” Varetimos said. “We needed to get in the end zone.”
North typically favors a north-south running game, but face serious resistance from Attleboro’s front four led by Zach Schwieger. The senior defensive end (3 tackles for loss) was a disruptive force along with linebacker Brandon Mooney.
Schwieger was named Defensive Player of the Game for his efforts along with causing a load of headaches for North’s coaching staff.
“We want to run the ball up the middle when we can, but they were bigger and stronger than us up the middle,” Red Rocketeers head coach Don Johnson said. “When we were trying to run outside, we got overpowered a little bit on the edge … We knew we had to mix the pass in there a little bit.”
A CHANGE OF PLANS
Given the way the Blue Bombardiers line controlled the line of scrimmage for portions of the game, North increasingly aired it out, leaning on Varetimos to gain yards via the play-action.
Varetimos’ 31-yarder to Jette was a result of an adjustment made by North against Attleboro’s over-pursuing linebackers.
“Their linebackers kept biting on the quick outs, like that, all game,” said Varetimos, who was named the game’s Offensive MVP.
North’s fourth-quarter drive was a valediction for an offensive group that sputtered early in the season.
That maturation as a group was spearheaded by the No. 15 (no, not that No. 15 in Denver, although there were some similarities) under center.
“We knew going in what kind of kid he was,” Johnson said of Varetimos. “He’s a tough kid, we knew he could run the ball a little bit. I think he’s grown tremendously from the beginning of the year and that’s a big reason for our success.”
Senior lineman and captain Anthony Plante had another way of looking at it, the way the unit finished their season on Thursday.
“We just had a little bit more desire to finish it,” Plante said of North’s drive to victory. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Despite learning the bad news that King Philip had triumphed over Franklin, handing the Warriors the division’s playoff spot, Johnson had strong parting words for his group.
“The fact that we’re not in the playoffs does not diminish that one bit,” Johnson said. “I feel confident that there will be other playoff teams in the state that couldn’t win a Hockomock League championship.
“I’m proud of our guys.”
Attleboro (7-4, 1-3) – 0 0 7 0 -- 7
North Attleborough (9-1, 3-1) – 0 7 0 7 -- 14
North - Alex Jette 33-yard pass from Spyro Varetimos (Varetimos kick)
Attleboro - Malique Clark 85-yard run (Tim Walsh kick)
North - Varetimos 1-yard run (Varetimos kick)