By Dan Harrison Correspondent
The Salem News
---- — TYNGSBOROUGH — Playoffs were on the line Saturday when North Shore Tech visited a surging Greater Lowell Tech team that had won its previous three games.
Behind four rushing touchdowns by Ross Murphy, the Bulldogs laid a 36-0 beat down on the Gryphons to capture the Commonwealth Conference Small championship after splitting the title with Greater Lowell Tech and Chelsea last season.
The Bulldogs also locked up a Division 4a playoff spot with what was a physically dominant performance from start to finish.
“We played really strong and hard today. I thought Greater Lowell was very tough, but we just executed pretty well,” said NST head coach Paul Worth. “We hit as well as we’ve hit all year, and we just played some old-school football the whole game. I don’t think we threw much.”
The Bulldogs (7-2) did attempt two passes, both in the first half, but they didn’t really need to, considering the way they pounded out first down after first down throughout the contest. Murphy (26 carries for 177 yards) was outstanding, and with the help of some fine interior blocking, he was able to gash Greater Lowell consistently on dive plays up the gut.
“In practice all week, we were getting ready for this game,” Murphy said. “We came out, and we knew they were going to hit us hard, we just tried to hit them harder.”
Most of Murphy’s yards came after contact. He scored from a yard out in the first quarter, then from 11, 36 and seven yards all in the second half.
“They were more physical than us and a little bit tougher up front, a little stronger up front and they kept getting guys to our (line) backers,” noted Greater Lowell Tech (4-5) coach Shane Abrams. “If they are getting to the second level, we can’t defend many people, and they were consistently getting to the second level and getting six or seven yards a pop. What they do, they do very well, that’s for sure.”
Chris Sudak also scored in the first half on a 1-yard run that was a big momentum shift in the game. Greater Lowell had just stuffed North Shore inside the Gryphons’ own 5-yard line, but a mishandled snap led to a fumble that was recovered by Sudak, who scored two plays later.
Sudak also intercepted opposing quarterback Nicholas Rossetti when he jumped an outside hitch pass, setting up another Murphy score to put the Bulldogs on top, 28-0.
Defensively, North Shore Tech focused most of its efforts on shutting down the Gryphons’ gritty running back, Tyler Mahoney, who managed 90 yards on 18 carries. Linebacker Dan Bailey hounded Mahoney all afternoon and kept the GLT senior captain from breaking the big one.
“To shut someone out is unbelievable. Especially this team, because they really started to come on the last three games. I think it spoke to the heart and desire of our kids that they were able to shut them out,” explained Worth, who also spoke about Bailey. “He was keyed up on him (Mahoney) the whole game. Talk about defense.”
Even with the four rushing touchdowns, Bailey’s defensive game and the momentum-shifting plays by Sudak, the most important performances for the Bulldogs came from its five offensive linemen. Denzel Birth, John Sabbio, Eric Comeau, Chris Girrard and freshman Alex Mason brought it to the Gryphons for all four quarters.
After starting center Ronnie Williams suffered an injury Friday in gym class, Worth had to move Comeau to center and bump Mason into the starting lineup. Comeau had a few bad snaps, but his blocking up the middle was crucial. Mason, meanwhile, got consistent blocks for Sudak, who ran off tackle well all game.