MARLBOROUGH – After four quarters, three hours, and two overtimes, the battle between the Westborough Rangers and Marlborough Panthers came down to one play.
Both “boroughs” battled fiercely, but Westborough pulled out the 29-27 come-from-behind win after Camden Petralia’s game-winning 2-point conversion in double overtime. With the eyes of the stadium upon him, Petralia ran to the right, carefully evaded several incoming defenders, looked ahead at his offensive lineman, and scampered into the end zone to secure the win.
“Everyone knew it was a run play. It was just an attitude play: punch it in, follow my blocks,” Petralia said.
Petralia’s 2-point conversion secured Westborough football’s first Mid-Wach-B title in over 20 years.
Though Westborough won the game in dramatic fashion, the Rangers looked shaky throughout the first two quarters of action. The team had five turnovers in the first half alone; dropped passes, fumbled snaps, three-and-outs, three interceptions, and costly penalties hampered the typically disciplined Westborough squad. Marlborough turned Westborough’s mistakes into points, scoring two 30-plus yard passing touchdowns.
Westborough seemed nervous as the team trotted off Kelleher Field for halftime.
“We were shooting ourselves in the foot – the penalties, the turnovers. Unfortunately, the kids knew what was on the line – with the playoff berth and the league championship and all that stuff – and they wanted it so bad that they were too tense. They were tight in the first half, they were afraid to make mistakes… We were so nervous about screwing up that we screwed up,” said Westborough Head Coach Joe Beveridge.
Although the first half had been difficult for the Westborough squad, the Rangers quickly erased the 13-0 deficit almost as soon as play resumed. Westborough quickly gained momentum and immediately drove down the field; the Rangers scored their first points on Dan Hackett’s 50-yard touchdown reception. Jake Martin intercepted Marlborough on the Panthers’ next possession, and Westborough’s Andrew Pisciotta quickly evened the score with a touchdown run.
Working through adversity had been something Westborough’s coaching staff had emphasized in the preseason. The team brought in George Mumford, a globally recognized sports psychologist who has worked with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, to speak to the players.
“Last year’s team, when they faced adversity, was notorious for saying ‘we know what’s going to happen, we know we’re going to lose this game,’ ” said Beveridge. “We were fortunate to have him talk to these guys. The mentality of ‘next play.’ The previous play doesn’t impact the next play… To these guys’ credit, they bought in and they executed the way they needed to in the second half.”
Petralia noted that the players had effectively shifted their attitudes in the locker room prior to the second half.
“It was definitely a shift in the locker room. I talked to the boys, got their heads out of their butts a little bit, and then we locked in and secured it,” he told the Community Advocate after the game.
Both offenses settled down in the fourth quarter, and the game remained tied. Both teams attempted game-winning drives in the final minutes of the contest, but neither squad could cobble together an effective drive to grab last-second points. Westborough turned the ball over for the sixth time while trying to pull ahead late.
The game went into overtime knotted at 13, and after both squads scored touchdowns and converted 2-point tries in the first overtime, the Rangers and Panthers went into the second overtime period tied at 21. Beveridge mentioned that this game was the first double-overtime contest he could remember participating in.
Marlborough started with the ball in double overtime, and although the team quickly found the end zone, Westborough’s defense held when it mattered most, thwarting the Panthers’ 2-point attempt. Moments later, Petralia’s touchdown and game-clinching 2-point conversion secured the win for Westborough.
“Coach [Ryan] Dailey has done an outstanding job all year… putting these guys in a great spot, making the game plan simple, and [we’re] able to execute… Ryan was able to bring them all in and give specific details on who needs to be where. These guys executed,” said Beveridge.
The Westborough sideline erupted as Petralia sealed the game, sprinting to the corner of the end zone to celebrate. The Rangers, who had gone 1-10 each of the last two years, were now league champions, winners of seven-straight games, and heading to the playoffs.
“Their resilience is outstanding. Kudos to them; they easily could’ve folded, they easily could’ve said ‘this isn’t our game,’ but they didn’t… They act like a family. Nobody cares who scores, nobody cares who gets the ball, nobody cares who makes the tackle. They just want to win,” Beveridge said.