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Senators tame Lions, 34-20

LUDLOW — Due to Friday morning’s soaking rain that made field conditions unplayable, Mahar Regional School’s football team was forced to wait an extra day to make the trip to play Intercounty League rival Ludlow High School. Undaunted, the Senators came to play Saturday night, and traveled home with a 34-20 win, their first of the season.

“It was a tough week,” said Mahar head coach Greg Scotland. “But we got the job done. I’m happy.”

Calling it a tough week may be an understatement. The Senators (1-3, 1-2 IL) were coming off a brutal loss to Cathedral High School in which they led 24-0 before allowing 44 unanswered points, ultimately losing 44-26. Then they were unable to practice Tuesday because of a water main break. Add to that the unexpected game postponement, and any semblance of a weekly routine was shattered.

“We weren’t sure that we were going to be adequately prepared to face this team, “ said Scotland.

It didn’t look promising for Mahar on the opening kickoff, as the Senators lined up to receive and were caught off guard by an onside kick that Ludlow recovered at the Mahar 33. The defense was up to the challenge, however, and returned the ball to the offense via a fourth-down stand on the Senators’ 25.

“We worked on that, keeping them bottled in.” Scotland said.

Mahar’s first offensive possession had the look of precision, with senior quarterback Logan Barrett leading the charge. Barrett ran for 12 yards and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Nick Newton on the drive, with sophomore running back Malik Adams adding 23 yards on five carries. On the 2-point conversion attempt, Barrett was intercepted by Ludlow’s Brian Pacheco for what appeared to be a Lions’ score, but an illegal-block penalty kept the Mahar lead at 6-0.

After the teams traded scoreless offensive series, Ludlow (1-4, 1-4 IL) got on the board with 7:08 left in the half on a 1-yard touchdown run from quarterback Daniel Rodrigues, and took an 8-6 lead when Pacheco pounded in the 2-point conversion.

The Lions’ momentum didn’t last long, though, as the Senators’ offense picked up where it left off and drove 67 yards in eight plays, culminating with a 35-yard touchdown run by Angel Biegen just under three minutes later, giving Mahar a 12-8 lead.

After a flurry of offense in the last five minutes of the half saw another touchdown scored for each team, Mahar went into the break with an 18-14 advantage.

Ludlow briefly re-took the lead early in the third quarter, when Lions’ quarterback Daniel Rodrigues found Andrew Conchinha with a 12-yard scoring strike, putting the Lions up 20-18. The defenses then took over until 11 seconds remained in the quarter, when Adams scored on a 19-yard touchdown run that put the Senators up 26-20 going into the fourth.

After Barrett showed that he also possesses defensive skills, intercepting Rodrigues’ pass at the Senators’ 10 yard line on the third play of the fourth, Mahar controlled the ball for the bulk of the final quarter, running a 76-yard drive to the Ludlow 14 before giving the ball up on downs.

With 2:30 left and the Lions attempting to navigate a long field to tie or win the game, Mahar’s Jake Paul broke into the backfield on second and 10 and threw Rodrigues to the ground, the ball popping free and rolling into the end zone in the process. Mahar’s Austin Leary jumped on the loose ball for a touchdown, effectively ending Ludlow’s comeback bid, and now at 1-4 in the IL, most likely, its playoff hopes.

“It felt great,” said Paul of the play.

“Jake Paul, he’s the man,” said Barrett. “I mean, wow. The whole defense helped me out a lot tonight.”

When asked about his own contributions on defense, which included the interception and a tipped pass that saved a touchdown, Barrett replied, smiling, “It was like my second game ever playing defense. I guess it worked out OK.”

Said Scotland, also with a smile, “Logan was fine on defense. But he’s really maturing as a quarterback. He’s a smart kid, he can really read a defense, and he’s able to call our audibles. If he continues to mature, we’ll be in really good shape going forward.”

Mahar looks to bring its IL record to .500 when it returns to action Friday at 7 p.m., hosting Belchertown High School.

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