SHREWSBURY – The Grafton Gators knew they had an ace up their sleeve going into their much-anticipated matchup against the Shrewsbury Colonials on Friday night – the only question remaining was when they should use it.
How about the first play from scrimmage?
Just seconds into the game, quarterback Jake Mayerhouser tossed the pigskin to wide-open fellow senior captain Wesley Williams, who ran into the end zone to complete the 60-plus yard score and put Grafton ahead 7-0. The opening seconds foreshadowed the next 48 minutes of football; Grafton dominated, ultimately defeating Shrewsbury by a score of 26-12.
“We’ve been practicing that all week. That was a great play by the coach – we knew the corner was going to bail – we knew that was going to be open, so we had to take it to the crib first play,” Williams said. “It’s great to celebrate with the team. The brotherly love is unmatched, man.”
“The offensive staff came up with that play,” Grafton Head Coach Chris McMahon told the Community Advocate after the game. “We worked on it every day in practice – and it hit. It was a great throw, great catch, and a great call by the assistant coaches to come up with that. But in the end, it always comes down to the kids executing. It was a great ball and a great route.”
Grafton has played many close games this season. The team hasn’t lost by more than two points this year, and last week, Williams scored a 15-yard, last-second touchdown to pull ahead of the previously unbeaten Doherty Highlanders. Needless to say, it was nice for the Gators to get ahead early.
“It’s huge, especially against a very good team like Shrewsbury. Shrewsbury can score in a variety of ways – they can pound the ball, they can move it through the air – so to get out to a lead, it’s huge,” McMahon said. “It makes us more comfortable with what we’re calling on both sides of the ball. It was a huge win.”
Williams’s touchdown was just the start. Grafton’s offensive onslaught continued until halftime. Finn Gilmore’s five-yard touchdown run put the Gators ahead 14-0. Six minutes later, Grafton widened its lead to 20-0 after Cayden Kelly lunged into the end zone.
Though Grafton owned the first half, Shrewsbury didn’t go down without fighting. After receiving the ball to start the third quarter, Andrew Vincequere, Josiah Spiegel, William Tonelli, and Felix Pittorino helped Shrewsbury push the ball down the field. Pittorino’s five-yard touchdown run would officially put Shrewsbury on the board and cut Grafton’s lead to 20-6.
The Colonials had finally arrived; Grafton seemed alarmed. The Gators fumbled (but eventually recovered the ball), had another near-turnover after the quarterback couldn’t handle a high snap, and soon enough, Shrewsbury finally forced Grafton to punt the ball.
“We’re always talking about the importance of the first drive of the second half. Hats off to Shrewsbury; they came out, they did their thing,” said McMahon. “I’m not surprised that Shrewsbury came out strong in the third quarter. Shrewsbury is a proud program, their head coach John Aloisi and his coaching staff are great guys and they do a great job. We knew they were going to come out swinging.”
The Colonials – who dropped to 3-3 with the loss – remained within striking distance for much of the game until Grafton finally responded in the fourth quarter. Gilmore’s second touchdown of the game put the Gators ahead 26-6. Shrewsbury would score again with 3:11 remaining in the game – making the score 26-12 – but the Colonials’ hopes were officially dashed when Grafton recovered Shrewsbury’s onside kick.
Grafton improves to 4-2 with the victory. The Gators will face three-straight league opponents to round out the regular season. After the win, players and coaches alike were excited for the future.
So, what are the Grafton Gators capable of doing this season?
“We’re capable of anything,” said Williams. “I love this team with all my heart. We’ve got some dogs on this team, and I really can’t wait for the rest of the season and to ball out with these boys.”
“We’re capable of whatever we decide to do next,” said McMahon. “We’re going to enjoy this win over the weekend for sure, but Monday is the next opportunity for us to get better. I’m not trying to do ‘coach talk’ here: we are focused on having a great day on Monday, getting ready for Tantasqua. Monday is our focus.”