By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
MARLBOROUGH – The Marlborough Shamrocks opened their regular season with an energetic victory over the Taunton Gladiators on the road June 19.
In their first meeting in roughly 18 months, this matchup between rival semi-pro squads developed into a physical battle on the field and a back and forth affair on the scoreboard.
“It’s always a tough game with these guys,” Defensive Back Daeshaun Perkins told the Community Advocate after the victory.
The Shamrocks started the game with defensive fireworks as Perkins’ defensive teammate Shawrod Heyward snagged an interception off Taunton quarterback Matt Letourneau.
Though their offense was unable to immediately capitalize, Marlborough’s punting unit pinned Taunton at the 1-yard line to start their next drive.
After ending the first quarter in a scoreless tie, the Shamrocks found the endzone to start the second quarter.
Moments later, with Taunton back on offense, Perkins generated more points when he stripped the ball from Letourneau’s hands on a blitz. He pitched to teammate Will Earley III, who sprinted for the touchdown.
“I just came off the edge, he didn’t let go, so I just took the ball and kept pushing,” Perkins said of the play.
Taunton cut into Marlborough’s lead before the end of the first half but still headed to the break trailing 14-6 due to a failed extra point attempt.
As the game entered its third quarter, Taunton did manage to seize momentum. They stifled the Shamrock offense and tied the game with a touchdown and successful two-point conversion.
That set up a dramatic fourth quarter.
Marlborough opened with a drive deep into Taunton territory. Unable to find the endzone, the team brought on kicker Pat Caruso for a field goal attempt. The Gladiators tipped his kick at the line of scrimmage, however.
Taunton took possession deep in their own zone, at which point the Shamrocks defense forced an intentional grounding penalty on Letourneau. That counted as a safety, giving Marlborough a 16-14 lead with just over nine minutes left in the game.
Running Back Brett Anctill padded the advantage a few minutes later as he scored untouched on a 9-yard touchdown run.
Taunton was not out of the game yet, though, roaring down the field and scoring with 3:33 left on the clock via a more than 50-yard touchdown pass from Letourneau. A failed two-point conversion attempt left the score at 23-20 as Marlborough then worked to seal the victory.
A bench clearing scuffle paused play for an extended period of time following the two minute warning.
Taunton then got the ball back with roughly 30 seconds left, but a final defensive stand held them out of the endzone.
“That was huge,” Perkins said of that game-saving stop. “We just knew that we couldn’t lose. We had to win.”
Marlborough now has a week off in its schedule before heading down to Connecticut to face the Connecticut Mustangs on Saturday, July 10.