Natick Dampens Walpole’s Playoff Hopes

A Walpole player looks to pass the ball.(photo/Tim Hoffman)

A Walpole player looks to pass the ball.(photo/Tim Hoffman)

Michael Fortin

A Walpole player looks to pass the ball.(photo/Tim Hoffman)

With the most crucial game of the year  the Walpole Rebels traveled to Natick High School with high hopes to overtake them and clinch a playoff berth.  Coming into the game Walpole had a five game scoreless streak and did not let up a point since September 28th.  But unlike their last five opponents, Natick has a potent passing game and can score on any play any where on the field.

As Walpole started off the game things looked very promising for the Rebels as they drove down the field.  Walpole started off by giving the ball to their three best offensive weapons–junior Connor Moriarty and senior Captains Cam Hanley and Mike Rando, who just came off an ankle injury where he suffered against Wellselley.  With Moriarty and Hanley sharing hand offs and Rando in the slot the trio was tough to slow down as each one refused to go down as they moved the sticks.  The opening drive was capped off with a 10 yard screen pass to Rando from junior Will Bolster to put Walpole up 7-0, their only lead of the night.  On the ensuing drive the key match up took place, Natick’s potent offense vs Walpole’s dominating defense.  On their first drive Walpole slowed down Natick’s star players junior Troy Flutie and sophomore Brian Dunlap to force a turnover on down.  As the Rebels then got a rare three and out they elected to punt where the combination of a high snap and bobbling the catch let the Natick defender’s get to senior Captain Steve Thulin which was crucial in the field position battle.  Natick quickly took advantage of this when on the first play of their drive Flutie connected with Dunlap for a 25 yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7.

As Walpole took the following kickoff out to midfield their field position looked promising as they looked to rebound from their following drive.  When Walpole started driving into Natick territory a crucial moment in the game happened when Rando re-injured his ankle on a jet sweep.  Unfortunately for the Rebels, the offense was never the same after this.  Inside the Natick 30, Walpole elected to go to the pass when a Natick defender intercepted Bolster which completely changed the momentum.  As Natick punted on their next drive Walpole got the ball in their own territory where they once again shot themselves in the foot when they fumbled the ball for their 3rd turnover in the first half.  Natick took advantage of this turnover by airing it out from Flutie to Dunlap once again for a 40 yard score to put Natick up, this was the first time Walpole has been trailing since Week 2 against Framingham.

As the second half began Walpole kicked off to Natick as they hoped to keep the game within one score.  This, however, did not pan out as Natick drove down the field as they carved up the secondary as Flutie connected with multiple receivers to lead them inside the Rebels 5 yard line.  Flutie finished the drive with a 2 yard run to put Natick up 21-7, Walpole’s biggest deficit of the year.  However the Rebels showed resiliency on the ensuing drive as they went back to Moriarty and Hanley.  As they both shared hand offs to lead Walpole deep into Natick territory the Rebels then turned to the pass game when Bolster hit senior Brad Webber for a 25 yard touchdown pass to bring the score to 21-14.  As both teams exchanged punts on their next drives, Natick got the ball as they drove into Walpole territory.  However just like all year the defense stepped up when senior Billy Rockwood intercepted Flutie’s pass.  The momentum for the Rebels slowly died out when on their next drive Bolster’s pass got intercepted by Flutie to give the ball back to Natick.  But just like last time the defense stepped up as Webber intercepted Flutie to set up one final drive for Walpole.  At the beginning of the drive things did not look good as Moriarty broke his wrist, which resulted in him having to get emergency surgery thus ending his season.  As the situation dampened for Walpole, things only got worse as the Rebels could not move the sticks and watched Natick hand them their first lose.

Although they suffered their first lose of the season the Rebels are still in the playoff hunt.  If the 9-1 Rebels beat Weymouth on Thanksgiving and Natick loses to Framingham the Rebels will still be awarded a 2A playoff birth.