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Franklin rallies past Duxbury in second half

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Big second half leads Springfield Central to road win at BC High

DUXBURY — Franklin head coach Eian Bain made it a point that he doesn’t have a bend-but-don’t-break type of defense, but his team surely doesn’t panic.

Trailing 14-0 with 7:16 left in the first half, the Panthers (3-0) rattled off 27 unanswered points and shut out Duxbury in the second half en route to a 27-14 non-league road victory Friday night.

Mack Gulla was outstanding in the trenches banging helmets for most of the game until he broke out a 45-yard off-right tackle touchdown run to seal the win with 1:35 remaining in the game. Gulla finished the game with 151 yards on 23 carries.

“Once we kind of settled down and realized the dogfight we were in we started to make those plays in the big moments,” said Bain. “Those are the best four defensive linemen in the state especially (Delby Lemieux), made life hard and we had to live in the life of two-three-four yards and then get them to wear down.”

Duxbury was in control early as Matt Festa was rolling to his right and left in the first half. Festa found his usual partner in crime Brady Madigan for a 22-yard touchdown and followed up that series with a 30-yard pass to Chris Walsh as Walsh laid out in the end zone for the circus catch and the 14-0 lead.

The defensive line for Duxbury, led by Lemieux, was up for the challenge, but the ground-and-pound game of Gulla set up Franklin’s screen and play-action in the backfield in the second quarter.

Shane Kindred scored on an end-around from right to left to go in from 18 yards out after some nifty footwork broke two tackles inside the 5-yard line, but Lemieux was at it again with the blocked extra point to leave the Panthers trailing, 14-6, with 3:43 left in the first half.

After a six-play drive stalled, Duxbury punted the ball away with only 39 seconds left on the clock and Franklin didn’t waste one second.

The clock seemed to expire as Will Tracey stepped out of bounds at the Dragons’ 35-yard line, but the officials put two seconds back on the clock. Jared Arone went to Tracey again, Tracey climbed the ladder, and pulled down the touchdown as time expired to give the Panthers all the momentum going into the lockers for the break.

“We could have easily taken the clock at that point, but I trust our kids. We ran a quick screen, a penalty happened, and we hit a quick out and bang — they had great coverage, but Will Tracey is the captain of the basketball team for a reason,” added Bain.

Duxbury again controlled the clock in the third quarter with an 11-play drive that stalled at the Panthers’ 10-yard line as Festa just couldn’t make the sticks on a 4th-and-3 quarterback keeper. The drive ate up 5:50 of the clock but Gulla was just about to punch in for work again and Duxbury knew they missed a golden opportunity.

“We didn’t execute there and it was a big play in the game, we had the momentum, and they made plays and we didn’t,” said Duxbury head coach Matt Landolfi. “(Gulla) is a beast, tough to take down so this is going to make us better as a team and that’s the plan and why you play (Division 1) teams and get better as a springboard.”

On the next series, Gulla carried the ball nine out of the first 11 plays from scrimmage as the Panthers marched the field into the fourth quarter. Gulla’s hard work between the tackles set up Arone for his second passing touchdown of the game and finished off the 90-yard series with a beautiful inside post route underneath by Will Deschenes as Arone hit the senior wideout in stride from 30 yards out.

Franklin held the 21-14 lead with 10:50 to go but Gulla was just too much down the stretch as he finally found the end zone on his 23rd carry of the game to lift Franklin to the victory.

Arone was super-efficient and finished 13-of-16 for 164 yards with two touchdowns for the Panthers, who face Mansfield next week.

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