BROOKLINE, Mass. -- Gridiron history is being made at Dexter School.
After defeating Evergreen-Bonnefond League foe Hyde School (Bath, ME), 38-28, at home on Saturday afternoon, Dexter is 4-0 for the first time and sitting atop the standings.
“Yeah, we’re making history,” said Dexter head coach Casey Day. “But, obviously, it wasn’t easy.”
Hyde proved Dexter’s most challenging opponent this season. After collectively outscoring its first three adversaries 107-49, the hosts were repeatedly forced into situations versus Hyde which tested their mental and physical resilience.
Every time the home team responded.
Early on, however, it did not appear the contest would turn into such a battle.
A little over a minute into the first quarter Dexter struck for two quick scores, hinting that a blowout might follow.
First, Luke Cuneo, who completed 18-of-30 passes for 274 yards, three touchdowns, three two-point conversations and two interceptions, connected with Mark Webber (six catches, 83 yards, TD) down the right sideline for a 27-yard scoring strike. Opting to go for two-points, Cuneo then found Justin Smith for an 8-0 lead.
Dexter retained possession when it successfully recovered its onside kick off. On the next play, Cuneo again went deep this time finding Colin O’Brien (four catches, 115 yards, TD) down the right sideline for a 38-yard touchdown. Another two-point conversation – this one to Chris Kinney – extended Dexter’s lead to 16-0 only 1:06 into the first quarter.
“More often than not we’re an onside kicking team,” Day explained. “Maybe in the past we didn’t have the guys to cover the thing. We have the guys that can cover the thing now and a guy that can punch it down deep. We feel like if we can get one or two a game, and we’ve got a good shot at it, we’ll take a crack.”
As opposed to Dexter’s ultra aggressive, spread, no-huddle, up-tempo and frenetically paced offense, Hyde instead opted for a more methodical, grind-it-out approach reliant on a ground attack and passes to its 6-foot-4 tight end, Chris Collins (eight catches, 156 yards, two TD, two-point conversion), across the middle which utilized both his height and athleticism.
“We’ve been working on that a lot during practices,” said Collins of the numerous jump ball catches he made against opposing defensive backs. “I have a lot of height on kids and I used to play basketball. Like I said before, I can just go up and grab it. I love going to get the ball.”
The philosophy worked as Hyde settled in before eventually scoring with 9:52 to play in the second quarter. Evander Lenardson hit Collins for a 35-yard touchdown. A fake point-after attempt resulted in Collins catching the two-point conversion from Deker Adelman.
Leading 16-8 at halftime, Hyde had opportunities to further close the deficit. However, the Dexter defense held.
It was a spark that also seemed to propel an offensive unit that had gone stagnant since the game’s opening 76 seconds.
What followed was a seesaw scoring battle throughout the third quarter. Dexter scored first en route to 22 points over a 12 minute span, while Hyde added 14 points of its own.
Cuneo picked up his third touchdown on a 22-yard pass to C.J. Okafor with 8:43 to play in the frame. After Hyde responded with a Jared Jenson 9-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 22-14, Okafor returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Matt Cuneo converted the 2-point attempt with a run up the middle.
Trailing 30-14, Collins snagged his second touchdown with 2:27 remaining in the quarter. Lenardson hit Jensen for the 2-point conversion to bring the score to 30-22.
Then, with three seconds remaining in the quarter, Matt Cuneo took the handoff from his brother Luke and ran it into the end zone from 15 yards out. Owen Martinson corralled Luke Cuneo’s pass for the two-point conversion and a 38-22 advantage.
“We kind of let up a little bit, which disappointed me,” said senior quarterback Luke Cuneo. “Myself, I made a couple bad decisions. But going into halftime leading 16-8, Coach kind of said, ‘Boys, we have to pick it up or this team is going to creep back into the game.’ We knew we had to come out in the second half and put one in right away, and we did. Nice touchdown pass to CJ and a good catch.”
Hyde’s Caleb Jones scored on a 16-yard run early in the fourth quarter, but it would be all the offense the visitors would muster.
As Hyde drove deep into Dexter’s territory with less than two minutes remaining, junior linebacker Nick Strand dropped back into coverage and snared an interception to effectively seal the win.
Still, with four games remaining, including one against an undefeated New Hampton School squad, Dexter is focused on achieving bigger goals besides simply making school history through four games.
“We didn’t have the best week of practice this week,” Luke Cuneo said. “But, like I said, if we keep practicing 100 percent every week there’s no team that we can’t beat. If we keep working 100 percent and playing hard, there’s a chance that we could go undefeated. We’re looking forward to it.”