By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
MARLBOROUGH – The Marlborough Shamrocks beat the Connecticut Panthers in their playoff opener Oct. 2, defeating the only team that beat them during an otherwise perfect regular season this summer.
Marching to a 24-0 victory in front of a home crowd at Kelleher Field in town, the Shamrocks secured a spot in their league semifinals on Saturday, Oct. 9.
In doing so, they exacted revenge on a Panthers squad that dealt Marlborough a 31-26 loss at home on Aug. 21.
“Overall as a team, we played well, we got it done,” said quarterback Blake Rice after the game.
Rice helped jumpstart the offense in the second quarter when he corralled a high snap only to scramble for a first down.
A few plays later, he hit Johnny Moores Jr. in the endzone for the touchdown.
Rice tacked on two more passing touchdowns, notably capping a drive in the second half that saw the Shamrocks rumble down the field with a series of nearly identical run plays that Connecticut struggled to stop.
That strong run game was good news for Rice, he said.
“Whenever we had a play action or a little fake or a poke fake, their safeties and their linebackers were all coming up to the line,” Rice said. “So, I could just dump it over the top.”
The game was interrupted by a series of lengthy debates between coaches and referees over officiating calls. Delaying plays by several minutes in some cases, these moments posed a challenge to Rice and the Shamrocks offense.
“I just tried to keep our guys in the huddle, let the refs and the coaches and the owners handle it all,” he said.
“It messes up momentum a little bit,” he continued. “But we were able to just keep it rolling once we got off of those breaks and punch it in afterwards.”
As their offense dominated, the Shamrocks got help from their defenders, including Kyle Fox who shared player of the game honors with Rice after a postgame huddle.
“They’re backed up against their own endzone and they’re still making turnovers,” Rice said of the defense, which racked up a number of interceptions and fumbles during the game.
The Shamrocks are now slated to face off against the Boston Bandits in their league semifinal at home at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9.
A win in that matchup will punch Marlborough’s ticket to the league championship game.