Boston High School: Matt Thall

Recap: No. 21 St. John's (S) 35, Marlborough 20

October, 26, 2013
10/26/13
11:22
PM ET
SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- Marlborough did everything right in the first half. The Panthers dominated time of possession, and outside of a 73-yard Drew Smiley to Mike McGillicuddy touchdown pass, they were in total control against St. John’s (Shrewsbury), holding a 13-point edge.

But, as we know, it takes two halves to win and Marlborough learned that lesson the hard way. The No. 21 Pioneers reversed roles over the final 22 minutes, scoring 28 unanswered points to post a 35-20 victory this afternoon at windy Pioneer Field.

"The first half we were like 'Dawn of the Dead' out there," St. John's coach John Andreoli said. "But in the second half we played our butts off. The kids never quit and we ran the ball with some authority in the second half. Defensively we dug in and gave our offense a chance to go back to work. Marlborough is a good football team but at times we shot ourselves in the foot in that first half by turning the ball over or having penalties on first down. We had to flush the first half and needed to come out and play hard in the second which we did."

What went so well for the previously undefeated Panthers (6-1) in the opening half turned into a house of horrors following intermission. After managing a paltry 106 yards of offense in the first half, St. John's (5-2) started to find its groove offensively and finished the game with 343 yards.

Unable to successfully move the ball early on, the Pioneers began to gain traction midway through the third quarter. Holes in Marlborough's defense began to widen and Smiley, a senior, was starting to find receivers getting open in the secondary.

The start of St. John's turnaround came midway through the third. On their second possession, the Pioneers drove 81 yards behind hard-charging junior running back Shane Combs (8 carries for 79 yards). That would lead to a 1-yard Smiley dive over the goal line, narrowing the deficit to 20-14 with 1:52 remaining in the quarter.

Marlborough's offense, which conjured up 205 first half yards but only 64 the rest of the way, failed in its attempts to move the ball against a rejuvenated St. John's defense. The Panthers' continuing efforts of keeping the Pioneers offense off the field eventually would backfire.

Early in the fourth quarter, Marlborough managed to reach the Pioneers 37. Facing a fourth-and-5 Marlborough opted to go for it. Quarterback John Rumney was stopped in his tracks for no gain, thus turning the ball back over to St. John's. Rumney, a senior, threw for 106 yards on 12-of-28 passing. He also led his team in rushing, gaining 72 yards on 14 carries.

"We thought we had a play there," Panthers coach Sean Mahoney said. "We didn't want to give their offense the ball back. Offensively, their offense was starting to click at that point.

“Defensively, I felt our kids got worn down a little bit. We threw the ball fairly well in tough, windy conditions but so did they. We weren't able to run the ball and that was a big difference. When we needed to run it we weren't able to. We battled them but we needed to convert on a couple of third and fourth downs in the second half and we didn't."

With the ball back in the hands of the St. John's offense, a 23-yard completion by Smiley to T.J. Kelley set up Smiley's 37-yard scamper down the left side line into the end zone. Jack Coveney's PAT put St. John's ahead to stay 21-20 with 3:38 to go.

"Our coaches told us we needed to come out with more intensity in the second half," said Smiley, who completed 9-of-16 passes for 147 yards, a touchdown, and rushed for 106 yards on 21 attempts, finding the end zone three times. "That first half was the worst half of football this team has played. We came out of halftime and played with a lot more intensity. We knew we could pound the ball and finally got it going in the second half. The way we played in the second half is the way we need to play throughout the entire upcoming playoffs."

While the Panthers, suddenly anemic, offense continuing to struggle, the Pioneers got the ball back on Marlborough's 28. Needing just one play, Smiley darted around left end for the score to put his team up 28-20 with 2:32 left. On the Panthers' next possession, Rumney was blindsided by defensive end Jeff DeMango, which resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Mike Duquette on the Marlborough 1-yard line. Running back Brad Sylvester closed this contest out with an easy plunge over the middle to make it a 15-point contest.

"When our offensive line started to get off the ball we and started to gain some confidence," Andreoli said. "Shane [Combs] was getting some tremendous yards after contact and that really got us going. Then we were able to use the wind in the fourth quarter and started to throw the ball and move the ball down field. I think the field position game really came into play for us in that fourth quarter."

McGillicuddy's early touchdown catch staked St. John's out to a 7-0 lead.

The Panthers answered two series later after Rumney hit receiver Matt Thall for a 9-yard scoring reception. Marlborough had to settle for just the six points after the following PAT sailed wide. With Thall, who also plays linebacker, given the assignment to shadow Smiley, the senior did an outstanding job containing a serious running threat. After its first score, St. John's offense did little the remainder of the half.

Marlborough took advantage of that by grabbing a 13-7 lead at 6:44 of the second quarter on Jose Caquias' 6-yard sprint around left end. Following another Pioneer four-and-out, the Panthers set up shot at their 48. A Caquias option pass to Alec Deveau netting 50 yards set the stage for Rumney's 2-yard run at 4:57, pushing the margin to 20-7. St. John's would have the ball three more times before the half was completed but could do nothing with it.

Recap: Marlborough 28, Nashoba 24

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
11:49
PM ET
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was more than just your run-of-the-mill high school football game.

For Marlborough, it was a chance to make believers out of naysayers. The Panthers came into Friday's contest against rival Nashoba Regional spotless, having won its first four games of the season.

On the surface, that might seem impressive, but upon further review, the opponents Marlborough had defeated entering Friday’s action were a combined 3-13. Facing the Chieftains at historic Kellerher Field represented the first true litmus test of the season for this group. How they would stack up against a worthy opponent was anyone's guess.

Nashoba, like Marlborough, also had something to prove on this crisp autumn evening. The Chieftains' school-record of 29 consecutive victories was snapped a week ago against St. John's (Shrewsbury). Having not lost a game since 2010, first-year head coach Jamie Tucker spoke prior to kickoff that it was time for his team to deal with it and move on.

Following Marlborough's gut-check 28-24 victory, both teams proved their mettle in a number of ways. The Panthers, who last defeated the Chieftains in 2005, erased an 11-point deficit heading into the final quarter. A 28-yard touchdown pass from John Rumney to Jose Caquias was followed by a Leo Coelho conversion reception that left Marlborough trailing by only three points, 24-21, with just under nine minutes to go.

On the Chieftains' next series, it appeared they would go up by two scores again after driving 63 yards. Facing a fourth-and-goal inside the 5-yard line, the Panther defense stiffened and stopped Nashoba at the 1, taking over possession.

With momentum now clearly in Marlborough's favor, Rumney (18-of-31, 256 yards, 3 TD) directed the Panthers downfield. A crucial first down completion by senior receiver Matt Thall on fourth-and-10 allowed the drive to continue. Seven plays later, Rumney hit Thall again, this time on a slant pattern in the end zone with 1:08 remaining, to give Marlborough (5-0) the lead for good.

"Our defense made a huge stop on their drive," said Thall, who finished with eight catches for 114 yards. "We got the ball back and drove the length of the field to win it. Certainly, this is our first signature win of the season. We beat all the teams we were suppose to beat and tonight this was a real test for us and were able to come out on top. We have a lot of things going for us right now."

The conclusion to this game did not come without some edge-of-your-seat dramatics.

Nashoba (3-2) showed tremendous grit in staging a final comeback bid following the Panther touchdown. Senior quarterback Matt Mudgett (180 yards on 13 of 19 attempts, TD) completed five passes as part of a 63-yard drive, getting the ball to the Panther 13 with less than 10 seconds to go. But solid man-to-man defense forced Mudgett to sail his final two passes out of the end zone.

"Any loss is tough," said Tucker, after his team finished with 383 yards offensively. "We played hard but Marlborough made a few more plays and that was the difference in the game. That last drive was a huge test of character for us.

“They had that long drive for the touchdown and it's hard to fight back from that which we did. But unfortunately we weren't able to put the ball into the end zone. Matt Mudgett played tremendous for us tonight. He stood in there and took a lot of hits. I cannot say enough about him. He just played great."

Marlborough, which accumulated 376 yards of offense, wasted little time grabbing the lead in this one. Just two plays in, Rumney tossed an out-pass to Caquias, who darted down the left sideline 63 yards to put the Panthers on top 6-0.

Drew Korn's 31-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter put Nashoba on the board, trailing 6-3. Senior running back Matt Sabourin's 24-yard scoring scamper up the middle with 3:57 still remaining in the quarter then pushed the Chieftains ahead 10-6.

Sabourin led Nashoba's ground game with 105 yards on 14 attempts.

Marlborough moved back ahead with 6:05 left before halftime.

A 33-yard catch by Thall set up William Cowdrey's 1-yard scoring run. Cowdrey, a junior, carried the ball 19 times for 108 yards. The offensive fireworks continued. A blocked punt from Nashoba's Nick Tavis led to Mudgett's 51-yard strike to receiver Kevin Connelly in the closing minutes to send Nashoba into the break leading 17-13.

The Chieftains' momentum carried over into the third quarter.

An Eli Williams interception at the goal line, following a sustained Panther drive, allowed Nashoba to dodge a major bullet. After the pick, the Chieftains proceeded to march 68 yards before Frankie Chiodo blasted into the end zone from 13 yards out, putting Nashoba in command at 24-13.

"This was a one play game throughout for both teams," Panthers coach Sean Mahoney said. "Marlborough and Nashoba have had some tremendous games through the years and this is just another one.

“Even though Nashoba scored 24 points, I still felt our defense played well. We hadn't been very good defensively, but tonight we were good when we had to be. Offensively, nothing fazes these kids. They just go out and keep making plays."

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