By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
MARLBOROUGH/GRAFTON – Marlborough threatened in the final seconds of the first half.
But Grafton seized momentum, doubling their lead in a matter of seconds in the third quarter of their MIAA football playoff opener, Nov. 5.
“[It’s] always a great game with Marlborough,” Grafton Head Coach Chris McMahon said after the win.
The fourth ranked Gators hosted the 13th ranked Panthers, Friday, defeating Marlborough 35-7 to remain undefeated this fall and prolong their state championship bid.
Things started fast for Grafton, with the Gators offense quickly punching in a 14 point lead in the first quarter on a short goal-line rush and a touchdown pass over the middle of the field from quarterback Tyler Dimond to receiver Liam Donagher.
Grafton was still surging in the second quarter when Marlborough’s Nealon Stemple nabbed an interception in the endzone.
Stemple then saw his team halve their deficit on a Miguel Borges rushing touchdown.
“I thought we were back in it,” Marlborough Head Coach Sean Mahoney said after the game.
Marlborough looked to maintain their momentum with an onside kick to start the third quarter.
The Panthers recovered the kick. But officials called it back, citing a quirk in federation football rules.
Instead of Marlborough starting their half near the Gators 30-yard line, Grafton took possession at midfield. They ran the ball down the field and promptly scored.
A blistering hit by Grafton’s TJ Cahill then forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, allowing the Gators to recover for another touchdown. A two point conversion after that score completed a swing that turned a 14-7 lead into a 29-7 advantage for Grafton in a matter of seconds.
“That was an amazing sequence because the whole game shifted on those three plays,” McMahon said. “That was huge.”
Grafton held the game from there, adding a touchdown with 55 seconds left to make the score 35-7.
They’ll move on in the playoffs, hosting a round two matchup with Bedford on Friday, Nov. 12 at 7pm.
Marlborough, meanwhile, is pivoting its attention to the annual Thanksgiving Day game against Hudson.
The Panthers have dominated those games for more than a decade, winning every matchup since 2010.
This year, though, marks the first such season in several years to see both Hudson and Marlborough field playoff bound teams.
As Grafton eyes a state title, Mahoney hit the road on Nov. 6 to scout this year’s Hawks squad as they ultimately defeated Austin Prep.
“Busy weekend,” Mahoney said before that game.