By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
MARLBOROUGH – The Marlborough Shamrocks were dancing on the sidelines in celebration as they capped off a decisive 40-7 victory over the Connecticut Mustangs Sept. 11.
The win saw the Shamrocks score more points than they had in any other game this season, launching the team into the postseason on a high note.
“It feels great to come out in the last game of the regular season and score 40 points,” said running back Brett Anctil.
Offense capitalizes on turnovers, builds early lead
The Shamrocks struck quickly in this regular season finale, punching the ball down the field with a number of running plays before Zach Grasis ultimately scored a rushing touchdown.
The Mustangs responded on their very next drive with a touchdown of their own. But it was all Marlborough from there.
Wide receiver Mark Roberts hauled in a 26-yard touchdown reception.
The Shamrocks defense then ripped the ball out of Mustang hands on the final play of the first quarter, securing the fumble and setting the offensive up inside the four-yard line.
Anctil promptly marched into the endzone to expand Marlborough’s lead to 20-7 following Pat Caruso’s extra point.
Anctil added another touchdown shortly before halftime, putting Marlborough up 26-7 after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
“They’re bullies up front,” Anctil said of his offensive line teammates. “I cannot complain nothing about my o-line. They open up the big holes. It’s great to score.”
Facing a small Mustangs squad that played with just seven substitutes on their bench, offensive coordinator Harrison Ingels said he rallied his players during halftime, imploring them to keep the pressure on.
That’s exactly what happened.
Mitjon Celaj darted around defenders on a series of plays in the third quarter, first bringing his team inside the Mustangs’ 15-yard line with a 35-yard catch. A running play got the Shamrocks to the five-yard line, at which point Celaj then fanned out to the sideline and caught a touchdown pass for a 33-7 lead.
Travis Lampher added Marlborough’s final touchdown late in the third quarter after the Shamrocks recovered a fumble and took over inside the Connecticut red zone. He made a catch over the middle of the field and then vaulted directly over a defender to score.
The game was called early with roughly four minutes left in the fourth quarter after a series of scuffles involving players from the Mustangs and Shamrocks.
Win gives Marlborough a shot at home-field advantage through playoffs
Marlborough’s victory, coupled with a loss by the Boston Bandits, put the Shamrocks and Bandits into a tie for second place in league standings.
That set up a coin flip to decide which team will get home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“When you have fans like this in Marlborough, that’s the biggest advantage you can ask for,” Ingles said.
The Shamrocks announced they had won that coin flip on Sept. 15.
Shamrocks looks to rekindle championship flame
Regardless of those results, though, the Shamrocks are entering the playoffs seeking to replicate a postseason performance that ended with a national championship in 2019.
“This resembled the team that we looked like when we won everything,” Ingles told his players in a postgame huddle. “We played through adversity because we’re missing some guys. Guys are banged up. We didn’t get to practice [this week]. We came out. We executed.”
He elaborated in a conversation with the Community Advocate moments later, highlighting how the Shamrocks bounced back from slow starts in numerous games both in 2019 and in 2021.
“We’re just trying to make sure that we don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we’re losing games…because of a slow start.”
In practice, Ingles said, that means continuing the strong performances that let the Shamrocks run away with the score in this victory over Connecticut.
“We need to come out and play our best football and play our best play from the beginning and try and build the momentum because it’s going to be three difficult wins in the playoffs,” he said.