It took a near perfect performance by an opponent to finally end Duxbury’s 37-game winning streak, and it happened on Tuesday night in Bridgewater where Hockomock League champion Mansfield HS defeated the unbeaten Dragons, 23-19.
It was a tough night for some senior members of the Dragons, who hadn’t lost a football game since the sixth-grade and were denied their third consecutive Super Bowl title by being eliminated from the play-offs.
In a game that was as tight as this one, it all boiled down to who made the fewest mistakes, and the Hornets were the decisive winner in that regard.
“We stopped ourselves either by penalties or turnovers. We even bobbled a few balls where we had 5 or 6 yard gains and they ended up being losses. Those were the kind of plays that killed our drives,” said Coach Dave Maimaron.
Mansfield set the Dragons back on their heels right away, as senior Kevin Makie exploded for a 50-yard run on the first offensive play of the game bringing the ball down to the Duxbury 20-yard line.
But the Duxbury defense did its job, holding the Hornets to just 12 yards over the next six plays and forcing Mansfield to go for a successful field goal with 6:37 left in the first quarter.
Neither team could do anything with its next possession and Mansfield was forced to punt, leaving Duxbury at its own 26-yard line with 2:49 remaining in the quarter.
After senior captain Jon Hurvitz gained five yards on first down, QB Sean McCarthy went to his leading rusher once again. This time Hurvitz wasn’t taking any short trips, as he broke through the line and wove his way down the field for a 69-yard TD run. Tucker HHHHannon’s PAT was no good, but the Dragons felt much better with a 6-3 lead.
A pumped up Duxbury defense forced a three and out on the Hornets, starting their next drive on their own 36-yard line. Two plays later Hurvitz had his team at midfield, but a third down fumble set Mansfield up with great field position at their own 44 to start the second quarter.
Nine plays later the Hornets took the lead on a one-yard TD run by Makie and led 10-6 with 5:25 left in the half.
The Dragons could not afford to turn the ball over against the bigger and faster Hornets, but it happened three plays later when McCarthy had his pass picked off down the right sideline, setting up Mansfield once again at midfield.
Three consecutive first downs on third down kept the Mansfield drive alive while eating up the final four minutes of the first half.
Mansfield Coach Mike Redding called a timeout with 43 seconds remaining to discuss strategy with his team, and they quickly moved the ball down to the two-yard line. It appeared the Hornets were going to go for a field goal when they let the clock tick down to three seconds and called a timeout once again. But they came back on the field fired up and ready to put the Dragons away, as captain Robert Rapoza went off left tackle and into the end zone as time expired for a 16-6 halftime lead.
“They played mistake-free football. We had talked about how we couldn’t make mistakes and in a game like this you can’t turn the ball over,” said Maimaron. “It’s just unfortunate we didn’t take better care of the ball.”
It appeared the Dragons were going to make amends in the second half for their sloppy first-half performance.
Starting at their own 41, they moved the ball methodically down the field with Hurvitz and McCarthy carrying the load. On the ninth play of the drive Hurvitz found a seam once again and slithered his way through the Mansfield defense for a 15-yard TD run. Hannon’s PAT was good and the Dragons were back in the game trailing 16-13 midway through the third quarter.
Both teams had trouble moving the ball over the next 10 minutes with fumbles on both sides killing any momentum.
As valuable minutes ticked away, it appeared the Dragons had few chances remaining to grab the lead. But taking over on their own 38 would be their best chance with 7:29 left in the game.
A botched double-reverse on the first play put the Dragons in a hole, and after two plays went nowhere they were forced to punt. Hannon dropped his punt out of bounds at the 23-yard line and the defense did its job on the first two plays, holding Makie to just three yards.
Mansfield called a timeout to discuss how to attack the Duxbury defense, and with seven yards to go on third down the obvious choice was 6’5” receiver Brendan Hill, who blew by his double-coverage down the left sideline for a 74-yard TD pass from QB Kyle Wisnieski to put the Hornets ahead 23-13 with 4:07 left in the game.
Duxbury wasn’t going down without a fight and it took just a 1:17 for the Dragons to get into the end zone, as a 23-yard completion to Jack Sullivan, a 27-yard run by McCarthy, and Hurvitz’s 15-yard TD run made it 23-19 with 2:50 left on the clock.
Mansfield recovered the onside kick and picked up two first downs before working the clock and taking a series of knees to end the game.
Having its winning streak snapped at 37 games, Maimaron reflected on this senior class and the 2012 team.
“This is a tremendous group of kids,” said the Duxbury coach. “They over-achieved all year. We had graduated a tremendous class, but we won a bunch of games this year and it’s a tremendous accomplishment to get this far. It wasn’t a matter of execution that cost us the game. It was taking care of the ball.”