MANSFIELD – Pride.
That was one of the first words out of Grafton Head Coach Chris McMahon’s mouth after his sixth-seeded Gators lost in the MIAA Division 4 semifinals, 20-10, against the seventh-seeded Scituate Sailors on Friday night at Mansfield High School. Even after the Gators’ disappointing loss, McMahon couldn’t help but be proud of his squad.
“I’m proud of the kids, proud of their effort,” said McMahon. “We never quit, we kept playing… literally until the last play of the game… I’m proud of what we accomplished this year… I’m proud of the seniors, I’m proud of the leadership they displayed – just the guts of the kids in the program.”
After making it to the Super Bowl last year, Grafton faced adversity early in the season, suffering two close losses and starting the year 2-2. The Gators did some soul-searching – McMahon said the team had to “look in the mirror and figure out who [they] were” – and won the remainder of the regular season games. Grafton defeated No.11 South High and No.14 Marblehead to reach the semifinals.
“We got to this position and we have nothing to hang our heads about. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We lost to a really good football team of good athletes… I’m proud of the effort,” McMahon explained after the game. “We have to break through. We’ll get back to the drawing board and figure out where we have to go and what we have to do differently… Last year we broke through, this year we fell a little short, but I’m certainly proud of all our kids and our coaches.”
Grafton fell behind early against Scituate. The Sailors went ahead 7-0 after Sam Allard’s 35-yard touchdown reception, stopped Grafton’s offense, and blocked the Gators’ punt. Scituate would score another touchdown soon after to extend its lead to 13-0 late in the first quarter.
Grafton’s offense finally started to settle down; several chain-moving Finn Gilmore rushes pushed the Gators’ offense down the field, and Gilmore punched the ball into the end zone with 11:48 remaining in the half to narrow the gap to 13-7. After allowing another Scituate touchdown, Grafton drove down the field in the final two minutes of the half, kicking a field goal to go into halftime down 20-10.
The score would remain at 20-10 for the remainder of the game.
Grafton will now focus on Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day game against Millbury.
“Thanksgiving is one of those games where you want to send the seniors out with a win, but you also want to build for next season… We want to go into next season on a high note, we want to go into next season winning a football game and getting ready for 2024. We have to win on Thursday; it’s a must-win game,” McMahon said.