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Maynard derails Turners Falls dream, 44-6

  • Turners Falls’ running back Ricky Craver is gang-tackled by Maynard during the Indians’ 44-6 state Division IV-A semifinal football loss Saturday night in Leominster. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Maynard’s Timmy Lawton gets a hand on Turners Falls running back Jack Darling, looking for outside running room, during the Indians’ 44-6 state Division IV-A football semifinal football loss at Doyle Field in Leominster Saturday night. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls’ wideout Owen Ortiz breaks a tackle by Maynard’s Mike Thornton, running the ball in for the Indians’ lone touchdown Saturday night during their 44-6 state Division IV-A football semifinal loss at Doyle Field in Leominster. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls’ unning back Jack Darling is tackled by Maynard’s Mike Thornton during the Indians 44-6 state Division IV-A semifinal football loss at Doyle Field in Leominster Saturday night. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls’ running back Jack Darling rushes against Maynard’s Tommy Smith during the Indians’ 44-6 state Division IV-A football semifinal loss at Doyle Field in Leominster Saturday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Turners Falls’ running back Ricky Craver rushes finds daylight Saturday night at Doyle Field in Leominster, where his Indians fell, 44-6, in their state Division IV-A football semifinal game. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

For The Recorder
Published: 11/20/2016 2:13:12 PM

LEOMINSTER — Even though plenty of game remained midway through the first quarter Saturday night, when Turners Falls High School faced fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in a scoreless Division IV-A football state semifinal, Indians fans will find it very tempting indeed to wonder how matters might have turned out differently had their club punched it in for the game’s first touchdown.

Maynard High School’s defense had other ideas, stopping Turners for no gain. The Tigers took over on downs and drove 99 yards the other way for a score of their own. That triggered a wave of Maynard momentum the Indians couldn’t withstand, as the powerful and opportunistic Tigers went on to bulldoze previously unbeaten Turners, 44-6, at Doyle Field.

Only Tionne Brown’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Owen Ortiz with 30 seconds left in the game kept the Indians (10-1) from getting whitewashed.

The game blew up in the space of five seconds late in the second quarter, when Maynard doubled its 14-0 lead, thanks in large part to the Indians’ failure to cover a kickoff that gave the Tigers the ball and first-and-goal at the Turners 6. On the next play, Alex Longo went in for the touchdown, added the two-point conversion run, and jumped the score to 28-0 with 1:40 left before halftime.

With its no-doubts win, Maynard (11-0) advanced to face eastern Massachusetts champion Millis High School (9-2) in the Division IV-A Super Bowl Dec. 3 at Worcester State University.

“We just made too many mental mistakes and too many physical mistakes. You can’t do that at this time of year,” said Turners coach Chris Lapointe. “They hit us in the mouth and we weren’t able to recover from that. They really didn’t adjust anything differently than we thought. We could have taken advantage of some things, but they just out-physicaled us.”

Early on, the Indians demonstrated that they were clearly up for the challenge. Their opening drive started at the Turners 30 and featured a 21-yard completion from Brown to Ortiz and a 33-yard jet sweep by Jack Darling that put the ball at the Maynard 3. Quinn Doyle lost 3 yards on two carries and Brown picked up 5 more on a naked bootleg, creating fourth-and-goal at the 1. The Tigers then stacked up fullback John Torres in the middle of the line to turn the Indians’ threat aside.

“We should have scored in the beginning there, but I don’t know if it would have dictated anything,” said Lapointe.

Twelve plays later, Maynard’s multi-faceted ground attack was already on full display. Ryan MacCormack had gains of 9, 19 and 10 yards, while P.J. Falzone (game-high 121 yards) ripped off 19- and 16-yarders. Eric Kiley did the honors on third-and-goal from the 4, taking a delayed handoff from quarterback Tommy Smith and sweeping the right side for the score. Smith then flipped the conversion pass to Falzone to make it 8-0 with nine seconds to go on the first-quarter clock.

“That opening drive, we were shaken a little bit on our sidelines, but the defense answered the call,” said Tigers coach Harold Ogilvie. “I think that probably took a lot of wind out of their sails, and for us, it definitely put a lot in. Then, to go 99 yards on our drive, our guys were flying around, very happy. It was a huge momentum-lifter for us.”

After a Turners three-and-out, Maynard didn’t have nearly as far to go, taking over at the Indians’ 44. Once again, chunk plays got the Tigers close — Falzone had back-to-back runs of 11 and 10 yards — and MacCormack slashed in from the 12 to up the lead to 14-0 with 7:34 remaining in the half.

The Indians picked up a first down on an 11-yard run by Ricky Craver, but were forced to punt once again and Maynard took over at its 24. Smith completed his only pass of the evening, a 22-yarder to Kiley, and Falzone picked up 11 yards twice and Axum Semakula added a 12-yarder. MacCormack tacked on his second score, a 6-yard run on a toss sweep to the left, putting the Tigers in business at 20-0.

Smith’s ensuing kickoff carried out of bounds, leading to a penalty and a rekick, and his second try looked as if it would head out of play as well. But the ball died short of the sideline, the Indians failed to pick it up, and Falzone pounced on it at the Turners 6. After Longo’s score five seconds later, Maynard led 28-0, and would eventually bring that lead to the locker room.

Turners had one final march, helped along when Brown hit Craver for 37 yards on a post pattern and a Maynard pass-interference call put the ball at the Tigers’ 17 with 26 seconds to go. A pair of incompletions, followed by a 7-yard pass from Brown to Ortiz, brought up fourth-and-3 at the 10, but the Indians were hit with a false-start penalty and walked back to the 15. Brown then missed connections with Ortiz on a crossing route on the final play of the half.

Maynard began the third quarter with the ball and promptly moved into Turners territory when Longo took a short snap in punt formation and ran 21 yards to the Indians’ 37. The Tigers’ own mistakes kept Turners in it, though, after Maynard was whistled for three straight holding penalties. That stretch created an unlikely first-and-34 at midfield, from which the Tigers eventually punted.

With little to lose, Turners chose to go for it on fourth-and-3 from its own 33 but turned the ball over on an incomplete pass. Maynard cashed it in with 10:19 left in the fourth quarter, after Falzone had consecutive 10-yard gains. MacCormack (96 yards) scored from 14 yards out, followed by Longo’s conversion run, and the Tigers boosted their edge to 36-0.

The Maynard defense got in on the scoring act shortly thereafter, once Turners had driven to the Tigers’ 32. Longo stepped in front of Brown’s third-down pass at the 29 and had clear sailing down the left sideline for a 71-yard TD return. Semakula’s two-pointer made it a 44-0 game at the 6:58 mark.

Both teams exchanged turnovers — Turners lost a fumble to Longo on an attempted hook-and-lateral play, and the Indians’ Reilan Castine came up with a fumble recovery at his own 33 with 1:38 to go. Not about to go down meekly, Turners got a 16-yard snap-off by Doyle, his longest gain of the night, and a 34-yard connection from Brown to Craver that brought about first-and-goal at the 9. Ortiz then button-hooked to grab Brown’s pass in the right flat, spun away from a defender and took it across the goal line for the Indians’ lone score in the final 30 seconds.

The Tigers had pitched back-to-back postseason shutouts in the central Mass. semifinal and final, and have let up only 8.4 points on average through their 11 games.

“They were excited to score. They don’t want to quit, and I know that,” said Lapointe. “Owen Ortiz told me he’s not gonna quit. Tionne wanted to do the onside kick. It comes to a point where, what are you teaching them if you just pack it in? They’ve got a chance of a lifetime to play here. They did their best — they’re kids.”

Maynard held the ball for 26:34 of possession time, compared to Turners’ 17:26, and rolled up 328 rushing yards. The Tigers finished with 350 yards of offense to the Indians’ 239. Brown completed 8-of-17 passes for 117 yards with a touchdown and a pick, while Craver caught two passes for 71 yards and Ortiz three for 37. Darling paced Turners on the ground with 53 yards on nine carries and Doyle added 35 yards on 10 tries.

Turners can still put the wraps on an 11-win season when it visits Greenfield High School (3-6) at 10:30 on Thanksgiving morning. Western Mass. football realignment means the ancient rivals will meet twice this fall; the first was an 8-0 home victory for the Indians on Sept. 30.

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