READING — Once again, an opponent gave the Reading High football team a challenge and once again the Rockets found a way to come out on top.
After a back-and-forth first half, Reading held Woburn to three points in the game’s final 24 minutes and won the battle between Middlesex League Liberty Division rivals, 26-17 on Friday at Hollingsworth Field.
“I’m proud of the way our kids played,” said Reading coach John Fiore, who recorded his 140th career win. “Our offensive and defensive lines rose to the challenge. That’s a big, physical team and we matched up with them well.”
Reading (5-0, 2-0 league) held a 20-14 lead at the half. The score was tied at 14 until Reading quarterback James Murphy found Patrick DuRoss in the middle of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown pass on fourth and-four with 8:36 left in the second quarter. It was Murphy’s 46th career touchdown pass, a school record which he set five games into his junior year.
At the beginning of the second half, Woburn (3-1, 1-1) forced the Rockets to punt from midfield. Staring at their own 25, the Tanners’, offense drove to the Reading 10 with Brian Ferreira gaining 21 yards on the first play of the series and quarterback Brett Tuzzolo connecting with Derek Baccari for a 22-yard gain and putting the ball at the Reading 25.
After a delay of game penalty pushed the ball back to the 15, Marc Cutone kicked a 32-yard field goal, cutting Reading’s lead to 20-17 with 4:54 left in the third quarter.
“It was just a few plays here and there,” said Woburn coach Jack Belcher. “We stopped them at the beginning of the second half and we get a field goal. If we came away with seven instead of three, we’d be up by a point and that could change things.”
Reading responded to the field goal by driving down to the Woburn 23. A procedure call pushed the Rockets back to the 28 and after four straight incompletions, they turned it over on downs. On fourth-and-15, Murphy’s pass to Colby Goodchild in the end zone was incomplete, with Woburn’s Andrew Taft breaking up the play.
After another Tanners punt, Reading drove down the field again. Murphy 12-for-27, 208 yards) found Alex DiNapoli for a 41-yard completion on third and 17, putting the ball on the Woburn 37. Murphy also kept the drive going with an 11-yard keeper on fourth and 9. On the next play, Goodchild (27 carries 175 yards) ran 10 yards through the middle of the line into the end zone for his third touchdown yo make it a two-score game with 7:45 left in the fourth quarter.
Woburn, which usually runs a double wing formation, took an early lead when Tuzzolo finished the game’s opening series with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Derek Dabrieo. On the 10-play, 77-yard drive, Tuzzolo threw five passes completing four.
“We thought if we could stop their first running play they might throw,” Fiore said.
Tuzzolo finished the game completing seven of 16 passes for 130 yards.
“He doesn’t get the attention some quarterbacks do, but he does very well,” Belcher said.
Reading responded on its first possession. Three plays into the series, Goodchild broke loose for a 58-yard touchdown run down the left sideline. After the extra point was no good, Woburn hung on to a 7-6 edge with 2:54 left in the opening quarter.
On Woburn’s next offensive play, DuRoss recovered a fumble at the Tanners’ 23. Goodchild carried the ball three straight times, finishing with an 8-yard scoring run through the middle of the line. On the conversion, Goodchild got into the end zone to put Reading up 14-7 with 2:54 left in the first quarter.
One minute into the second quarter, the Tanners’ tied the score. Baccari scored on a three-yard plunge. Cutone’s kick pulled his team even with the Rockets at 14.