- Scott Barboza, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Sometimes Attleboro quarterback Tim Walsh sits back and watches the show.
“We expect him to bust one every time,” Walsh said of Blue Bombardiers junior running back Damon Belin. “He has that kind of explosiveness where it’s just like, ‘Wow.’”
Of course, Walsh — himself — is as deft making plays with his feet as he is throwing from the pocket. And, in Friday night’s Division 1 South semi-final matchup with Bridgewater-Raynham, Belin and Walsh combined to create a force to which the Trojans had no answer in the second half.
After keeping it a one-possession game through the first half (21-14, Attleboro), the Trojans were unable to slow the Blue Bombardiers’ rushing attack in the second half, as Attleboro posted 19 unanswered points while running for 318 yards on the evening in a 40-14 rout.
“Our running game seems to be underrated, but I think it’s very strong,” Walsh added. “That just allows me to have more opportunities.”
Belin ran for 94 yards on 24 carries and scoring three touchdowns — two rushing, one receiving.
But it was actually Walsh who led the Blue Bombardiers (8-1) with 122 rushing yards on 11 carries. He also completed 7 of 11 passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
However, for all of Attleboro’s success on the ground, it appeared as though B-R (5-3) would impose its will in the duel between former Old Colony League rivals. Without the services of starting quarterback Matt Clement (concussion), the Trojans started the game nearly exclusively in a series of heavy goal-line formations, running Brandon Gallagher out of the “I.”
After pushing the opening drive downfield on brute strength, the Trojans found the end zone first with Steve D’Emilia’s 16-yard touchdown to tight end Connor Reagan.
But Attleboro would score on each of its first three offensive possessions, taking a 21-14 lead into the half, after fullback David Duquette’s 12-yard draw run up the middle with 3:01 remaining.
The Blue Bombardiers continued the onslaught with the opening possession of the second half. An 8-play, 65-yard drive, culminating in Walsh’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Burns with 8:05 remaining in the third, gave Attleboro its first of three unanswered scores in the second half, closing out the victory.
Attleboro advances to face the winner of Saturday's Catholic Conference clash between BC High and Xaverian in next week's sectional final.
Trench warfare: While Attleboro’s offensive line won the point of attack, so too did the Blue Bombardiers’ defensive line. Attleboro held the Trojans to 117 rushing yards on the game.
Of those yards, Gallagher owned 102. But of his team-high total, nearly half of Gallagher’s yards came on one play in the second quarter. Faced with a fourth-and-5 from its 47-yard line, B-R claimed a 14-13 lead with 6:29 to play in the half, with Gallagher running 53 yards on a direct-snap, punt-fake play for a touchdown.
However, Attleboro clamped down in the second half, forcing the Trojans into a negative yardage figure (-3) on rushing attempts coming in the second half.
“I’m upset about the fake punt because we worked on that all week,” Attleboro head coach Mike Strachan said. “But we bounced back, I think our defense, after the first drive, they ate a lot of clock in the first quarter. They did a really good job. But I thought we settled down.”
Meanwhile, on the flip side of the ball, the Blue Bombardiers’ O-line consistently opened up huge holes. They also provided support in the passing game, with left tackle Shawn Reardon’s seal block springing Burns on his 14-yard score off a slip screen to start the second half.
“We have such big linemen and because of their strength, it gets me through those holes every time,” Belin said.
Burn-s notice: Tommy Burns has proven to be jack-of-all-trades for the Blue Bombardiers. And, at 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, Burns’ impact on the Blue Bombardiers’ success has far exceeded his stature.
Take Friday night’s game for instance. Burns finished with a game-high 105 yards on five catches with a touchdown. Working across formations, he also added 46 rushing yards on five carries.
On defense, Burns again made his presence felt, recovering a fumble at the tail end of the first quarter, which set up a 6-play touchdown drive capped by Belin’s 14-yard touchdown catch for a 13-7 lead at 9:17 of the second.