Patriot’s Coach Bill Belichick always seems to value intelligence and versatility when drafting his players. Maybe he should be keeping tabs on Reilly Naton in four years.
The Yale-bound senior scored on an electrifying 63-yard touchdown pass from Matt O’Keefe in the fourth quarter, then sealed the victory with a 30-yard interception return with less than four minutes remaining, as the No. 2-ranked Dragons beat No. 3 ranked Xaverian, 31-14, at The Hawk Bowl in Westwood on Saturday afternoon.
It was billed as the biggest game of the high school season and the fans could see why, as both teams displayed big-game performances in pressure situations and took advantage of key turnovers which always seem to decide the outcome.
After winning the toss and taking the opening kickoff, the Dragons were faced with 97 yards of real estate in front of them, as they started at their own two-yard line. A quick hit to junior Joe Guilfoile, a first-down run by sophomore Khai Perry, and a 16-yard keeper by O’Keefe had Duxbury out of trouble and on its way at the 31-yard line.
Five plays later and aided by a 15-yard penalty, O’Keefe faked a hand-off and went off right guard for 20 yards and a TD. Tucker Hannon nailed the extra point for a 7-0 lead and the Xaverian crowd could see that this was no Division 2 pushover.
After an exchange of punts, the Hawks would penetrate down to the Duxbury 32 after a spectacular 65-yard run by QB Austin DeCarr, who was dragged down from behind by a hustling Andrew Padula.
A third down sack of DeCarr by linebackers Max Randall and Marshall McCarthy forced a field goal attempt by Jules Murphy, who shanked his kick right to preserve Duxbury’s seven-point lead.
With 8:38 left in the first half, Duxbury mounted its second scoring drive when a 12-yard completion to Don Webber and a 15-yard penalty on Xaverian put the ball at midfield. Faced with a third and four, O’Keefe dropped back and lofted a pass deep down the left sideline, where Webber took the ball over his left shoulder for a 36-yard completion to the 22. The drive stalled as O’Keefe got pressure from 6’2”/275-pound lineman Mo Hurst, son of the former Patriot defensive back.
Hannon came on and split the uprights with a 37-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
The one thing to fear about the Hawks is that they come to play with outstanding athletes. It certainly showed on their next series, as DJ Pagliuca blew past the Duxbury secondary on the second play of their series and went 70 yards on a pass from DeCarr to make it 10-7 at halftime.
Duxbury’s first possession of the second half jeopardized its lead, as Xaverian recovered a Dragon fumble on the 19-yard line.
After a 10-yard completion, consecutive penalties moved the ball back to the 18, but DeCarr connected with Mike Warren on a pair of receptions and the Dragons found themselves behind for the first time this season, 14-10.
“We talked about the fact we would face some adversity during the year, but our kids stayed focused and we were able to execute down the stretch,” said Coach Dave Maimaron.
The Hawks seemed to gather more confidence as the game progressed, forcing a Duxbury punt and starting a drive that appeared headed for another lead-increasing TD. But bruising running back Hunter Taute (6’2”/235) fumbled at the Xaverian 19 on a hit by Seamus Connelly and Owen Grey and it was recovered by James Burke.
A 17-yard keeper by O’Keefe, followed by a delay of game penalty and a three-yard loss put the ball back on the 10 where the Duxbury QB found Naton all alone over the middle for a 17-14 lead with 10:54 to go in the back-and-forth game.
The Duxbury defense came up big with Grey, Mark Trudeau, Henry Narlee and Connelly battling a much bigger Xaverian line and it was three and out for the Hawks, who punted the ball down to the Duxbury 28. An 11-yard pass to Webber put the ball at the 37 on second down when O’Keefe pumped right and hit Naton with a pass that he took 63 yards into the end zone for a 24-14 lead with 8:06 to go.
“Naton is a hell of a football player and he got them to bite on a fake screen,” said Maimaron. “He was able to sell it and he got by the corner.”
After an exchange of punts put the ball at the Xaverian 49, DeCarr found Bryce Boggs at the 30 for a first down with four minutes left in the game. The Hawk QB then got a little too greedy when Naton stepped in front of his pass on the left side and returned the ball to the Hawk 45 after which junior Jon Hurvitz carried seven times for 44 yards and the clinching TD.
“They are a tough team and Hurst is a beast,” said the Duxbury coach. “They have a great defensive line and O’Keefe took some hits today, but our kids kept fighting.”
Now the crucial part of the Duxbury schedule takes over, as they continue with their Patriot League schedule that will determine their return to post-season play. The Dragons will travel to Scituate on Friday night for a 7 p.m. encounter with the Sailors.