WAKEFIELD — Over the years, Shawsheen Tech and Northeast Metro Tech have engaged in some great battles on the gridiron, including an instant classic double overtime win by Shawsheen in Wakefield two years ago.
Last Friday night, the two teams added another great chapter to their rivalry, with the Rams once again coming out on top, this time in a 40-30 shootout that featured big plays on both offense and defense by both teams.
When the dust finally settled from a long, cold night of football, the Rams had taken another step forward in their quest for a CAC championship, improving to 4-0 on the season and 3-0 in the CAC, with a pair of league games remaining. Northeast meanwhile, fell to 1-3 (1-2).
"If you like offense, this was a great game," Shawsheen coach Al Costabile said. "I thought both teams played very well. Northeast was very well prepared."
Shawsheen, who piled up 336 yards of total offense, was led by a tremendous effort by junior running back Diondre Turner of Wilmington. Turner (14 carries, 112 yards) had three touchdown runs on the night, scoring on runs of 37, 4 and 25 yards. He also had a 60-yard scoring run called back in the fourth quarter due to a Rams penalty.
Shawsheen led throughout the game, with the exception of a brief stretch in the first quarter, but Northeast never gave in, fighting back every time the Rams seemed to have taken control of the game.
Shawsheen led 27-14 at halftime, and extended the lead to 33-14 early in the third quarter when Turner capped a three-play, 40-yard drive with four-yard run up the middle with 7:54 left in the quarter. Turner was the star of the drive, carrying three times for all 40 yards on the way to what at the time was his second touchdown of the night.
Northeast however, refused to go away quietly, responding immediately with a pair of scoring drives. The first drive came right after the touchdown, when the Golden Knights marched 71 yards on eight plays, aided in part by a 15-yard personal foul penalty against the Rams on a third and long incomplete pass.
Steve Donnelly eventually capped the drive with a seven yard scoring run and then added the two point conversion rush to make the score 33-22 with 4:10 left in the third.
Following a fumble recovery on the first play of the Rams next possession, Northeast once again struck quickly, moving 44 yards in seven plays to close to within 33-30 on a four yard touchdown run by Izzy Lainez and a conversion rush by Donnelly with 41 seconds left in the third quarter.
As great as the Rams defense has been this season, allowing only 16 points all season heading into Friday night's game, Costabile knew that the Northeast offense would provide a unique challenge.
"It's a hard offense to play against," Costabile said of the Golden Knights two back set. "They run it very well and are tough to stop. And it is a hard offense to prepare for because it is hard to emulate in a short week of practice. It is not something we are used to."
Northeast on the other hand, had no answer for Turner, who once again extended the Rams lead, scoring on a 25-yard run just 32 seconds into the fourth quarter to make the score 40-30 after Randy Leavitt added his fourth extra point kick of the night.
A pair of completions from junior quarterback Chris Disciscio (8-for15, 176 yards) to seniors Josiah Martinez of Wilmington and Connor Rich keyed the drive, before Turner closed it out.
"Diondre had a great night," Costabile said. "He has had a great season. He is a great athlete and as the old saying goes, he can score from anywhere on the field. I also think that his great play on offense overshadows his defensive play. He is an outstanding defensive player in the defensive backfield for us."
Northeast did try to mount one more comeback drive, but a fumble recovery by Shawsheen defensive end Tim Annino returned the ball to the Rams, and Northeast never seriously threatened for the rest of the game.
Shawsheen had jumped out to a 6-0 lead on their first possession on a 21-yard run by sophomore Dylan Timmons of Wilmington, only to see Northeast take an 8-6 lead on their first possession on a touchdown by Shane Belliveau to go along with a two-point conversion.
Turner’s first score of the night, from 37 yards out, coupled with the extra point kick from Leavitt, gave the Rams the lead back at 13-8 with 6:30 still to go in the first quarter and when Disciscio connected with Martinez for a 54-yard scoring strike with 7:37 left in the half, the lead grew to 20 -8.
The connection with Martinez was a thing of beauty, with Disciscio hitting his wide open receiver in stride at about the 25 yard line and letting Martinez (4 catches, 96 yards) do the rest from there.
"That was a big play for us at the time," Costabile said. "I know Josiah has been wanting to get on track and he had a great game. He is a big play receiver and that play epitomizes what he can do.
"I thought all of our receivers did a good job getting open and I thought Chris had a good night, making some big passes at key moments."
The teams would then trade scores before the end of the half, with Northeast closing to within 20-14 with 3:05 left on a one yard sneak by quarterback Owen Halley.
The Rams, however, did not wait long to once again make it a two score game, scoring on a 57-yard run by Rich on a double reverse with 1:05 left in the half to make the score 27-14 at the break.
The Rams will be back in action on Friday night when they host CAC rival Whittier Tech at Cassidy Field on Senior Night with the time moved up to 6:30 pm (originally 7 pm). Whittier brings a 1-3 record (0-3 in the CAC) into the game, having lost to Northeast 20-6 two weeks ago and Greater Lowell 23-14 last week, but Costabile and the Rams are taking nothing for granted against the Wildcats and their run heavy offense.
"That's another tough offense to play against," Costabile said. "They are big up front. They have some big tackles and they line up hoof to hoof on the line which makes penetration very difficult, and penetration is the key to stopping them, so it is not easy. We will have our hands full."