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It’s about time the Dragons had a competitive football game. But it was almost too close for comfort.
Trailing by six points with 3:47 left in the game, QB Kane Haffey engineered an 80-yard TD drive in six plays to lead the Dragons to a season-saving, come-from-behind victory over Hingham, 21-20, on Friday night before a packed house in Duxbury.
Entering the game at 9-0, most pundits thought No. 8-ranked Duxbury would roll over Hingham on its way to a Division 2A playoff appearance. But the Harbormen had other ideas, as they took a page out of the Silver Lake playbook and played keep-away from the Dragons for most of the first half with an 18:00-4:00 advantage in time of possession. Despite that enormous difference, Hingham trailed 14-12 at the half.
After running 8:28 off the clock on its first drive, the Harbormen had the Dragons in the uncomfortable position of trailing 6-0 after QB Reed McLeod found Harry Rein for a 17-yard TD pass.
Duxbury wasted little time worrying about its plight, as sophomore Jon Hurvitz took the subsequent kickoff out to the 47-yard line. Two plays later, Haffey found Don Webber for a 32-yard TD pass. Tucker Hannon kicked the PAT and the Dragons were right back in their normal position of being ahead at 7-6.
Hingham continued to do what got it off to a great start, as they put together a nine-play drive that ended in a 4-yard TD run by junior Kevin McCarthy for a 12-7 lead.
The Dragons responded once again with another excellent return, a 15-yard penalty, and the arm of Matt O’Keefe, who hit Hallisey for 15 yards and Webber for a 24-yard TD strike to put Duxbury back in front 14-12 at the half.
With 22 minutes of football separating the Dragons from another playoff appearance, they came out for the second half intent on putting the game away quickly. Excellent field position gave them a solid start and Haffey hit Webber for 24 yards on the second play of the drive, putting the ball at the 21-yard line.
With the Harbormen stacking the box, Coach Dave Maimaron felt he had to throw the ball. With Haffey at the controls, he called for passes six times from the 15 and most of them went incomplete, as the drive stalled at the three-yard line when Joe Guilfoile stumbled after his catch.
The Dragon defense forced Hingham to punt, taking over at the Hingham 44-yard line and giving it right back after three incomplete passes.
The Harbormen would get their offensive game back in gear as the third quarter came to a close, marching down the field and scoring for a 20-14 lead on a 33-yard TD pass from McLeod to Curtis Shoyer, who also found McCarthy for the two-point conversion.
Duxbury’s offense continued to sputter in the fourth quarter, as Webber was nailed for an 11-yard loss on an end-around, forcing Duxbury to turn the ball over again.
Time was ticking away on the Dragons with 5:00 remaining, and Hingham faced a big third-down play.
Linebacker Max Randall came up the middle to sack McLeod for a damaging 10-yard loss and the Harbormen punted away to the 20-yard line.
A 36-yard completion down the middle of the field to Hallisey and a 27-yard scamper by Hurvitz off right tackle suddenly had the ball at the six-yard line with less than three minutes left in the game.
After an incomplete pass to Hallisey, Haffey rolled to his left and found Guilfoile all alone just inside the pylon with 2:24 left in the game. Hannon came on for the game-winning PAT and drilled it through the uprights for a 21-20 lead.
Taking the kick-off out to the 30-yard line, Hingham Coach Paul Killinger reached into his bag of tricks and ran a double-reverse with a pass that ended up in the hands of tight end Liam Koenen 33 yards down the field before Duxbury’s Adam Martin hauled him down from behind.
A big third-down stuff by sophomore linebacker Henry Narlee gave Hingham one more chance on fourth down. But Martin was a step ahead of Koenen this time as they raced down the field and hauled in the interception over his shoulder to secure the win for the Dragons.
While the Hingham defense held Duxbury to 28 yards rushing on eight carries, the passing combo of Haffey and O’Keefe went 11 for 24 for 194 yards and three TDs, while Reilly Naton (15 total tackles), Denis Maguire (13), Randall (13), Jay McDermott (13), and James Burke (13) also had big games on defense.
“They play straight man-to-man defense and they force you to throw the ball,” said Maimaron. “But our defense also came up big when they had to and I think our depth in the fourth quarter worked to our advantage because they have a lot of kids that play both ways.”
After Duxbury’s annual Thanksgiving Day battle with Marshfield, the team will likely take on Dennis-Yarmouth in the first round of the MIAA Division IIA playoffs on Nov. 30 at a place and time to be determined.