- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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BROCKTON, Mass. – Despite trailing by 14 points at halftime, it wasn’t time for desperation on the Bridgewater-Raynham sideline. As Trojans head coach Dan Buron huddled his team together at the half during their Thanksgiving Day game at Brockton High, he insisted there was no need for panic.
“I thought we were playing pretty well in the first half, but we just weren’t tackling,” Buron said.
The Boxers had hit on two home runs – a punt return for a touchdown by Darien Keith and an 81-yard run by Jonathan Deroulus – but otherwise, B-R was right there. It all came down to execution.
That’s when Trojans quarterback Matt Clement and running back Brandon Gallagher went to work, engineering two second-half touchdown drives. And then, with the aide of a little trickeration on a two-point try, B-R wrapped up its season with a 15-14 win – one which Buron called one of the finer points of his long coaching career.
“We ended up seven and four without one of the best backs in the state for most of the season,” Buron said of his team’s season and that of Gallagher, “and with the schedule we play, I’m really proud of the kids.”
If you blinked you would’ve missed Brockton’s offensive fireworks.
After forcing B-R to a three-and-out on its first possession, Keith shed a couple would-be tacklers and sped 72 yards to the end zone. After a failed point-after try, the Boxers (7-4) led 6-0.
Brockton would need just two offensive plays to run its lead to 14-0, as Deroulus took the Boxers second play from scrimmage 81 yards for a score after breaking a few tackles and bouncing it to the outside, with a successful two-point conversion pass from Aaron Williams to follow.
In the second half, B-R’s defense took hold, limiting the Boxers to three-and-outs on their first two series.
“I thought they played well in the first half,” Buron said. “It was just [Deroulus], he’s a good athlete and he broke a couple tackles and we couldn’t catch him. But otherwise, I thought we played pretty well.”
On the flip side, the Trojans’ offense held up its end of the bargain.
“It was up to us,” Trojans quarterback Matt Clement said. “We were playing and Brockton’s a great team, they’re a fast team. They kind of outran us on a couple plays. But like coach said to us, we were winning the football game, we just had to come out and make a couple of plays.”
Gallagher provided the first one of those, getting B-R on the board with a 38-yard touchdown with 7:46 remaining in the third quarter.
Then, after forcing another Brockton punt, the Trojans embarked on a 12-play, 53-yard drive. Gallagher capped the drive with a 4-yard plunge into the end zone. Looking to settle the game in regulation, Buron called for a swinging door play. On the direct snap Jensen Vallarelli waltzed into the end zone untouched, providing the game-winning points.
QB takes charge, even when it went wrong: On what would proved to be the Trojans’ game-winning drive, B-R narrowly avoided disaster.
Confronted with a fourth-and-1 at Brockton’s 5-yard line and looking to, at least, tie the game, Buron called a “45 Blast” – a hand-off.
What happened from there didn’t exactly go to script, although it was effective.
“They have some hogs over there and we’re not as big as we usually are,” Clement said. “That was supposed to be a 45 Blast on set, but I bobbled the snap, so it was my own fault.”
Ultimately, Clement fell forward for the yard and, one play later, Gallagher punched in his second touchdown of the game.
“Matt Clement did a great job running the offense in the second half,” Buron said. “A lot of that was his calls at the line of scrimmage. I also though he made some great decisions scrambling.”
Good end to a tough beginning: For Gallagher, a preseason ESPN Boston All-State selection, his senior year didn’t go exactly how he’d anticipated. He was injured during the Trojans’ season-opener against St. John’s Prep. His broken ankle forced Gallagher out of most of the season.
“It was tough,” said Gallagher, who didn’t return to the field until B-R’s Division 1 South playoff opening-round game. “It’s nothing I want to ever go through again.”
But, for what the 2014 season was not for Gallagher, Thanksgiving Day was a glimpse at what could have been – with B-R largely running its offense behind its feature back.
“I was just going to ride him in his last game,” Buron said. “He responded, all the seniors responded.”
While it would have been easy for Gallagher to contemplate would could have been, he put a positive spin on an overall successful campaign for the program.
“We had a great year, we really did,” Gallagher said. “When you look at the schedule … Us losing to Xaverian twice, they’re pretty much unbeatable. This one meant a lot to us, this was our Super Bowl.
“It’s unbelievable. From the O-line to the defense, everybody, we just wanted to come in here today and play for the seniors, play for each other.”