NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. - Legendary Coach Ken LaChapelle and his Northbridge High Rams sent word throughout the Central Massachusetts football community that they will be major players in Division 4 in 2012. The Rams scored early and often in their season opener, overwhelming the youthful Bartlett High School Indians 42-7 at a raucous Lassell Field Friday Night in Whitinsville.
Northbridge took the opening kickoff and scored on two plays for an early 7-0 lead. After a 20-yard draw play by quarterback Matt Phelan, the Rams reached into their bag of tricks, with receiver Ben O'Donnell hitting Phelan for a 39-yard touchdown pass off of a flea flicker. Jake Ryan added the point after, the first of six on the night for the senior.
After a Bartlett punt gave Northbridge the ball at the Indian 35, Phelan would score on a quarterback draw from 9 yards out to make it 14-0. A pass interference call following a 2nd and 15 incompletion deep in Bartlett territory was the key play of the scoring drive.
Trailing 14-0, the Indians would begin the next possession with great field position at the Ram 47. However, on 4th and 2 from the Northbridge 38, the Ram defense came up big, stopping Akeem Belnavis for a 2-yard loss. One play later, Dan Clasby would march into the end zone from 60 yards out, and the rout was on.
A rare three and out by Northbridge gave the Indians a 1st and 10 at their own 6. Bartlett appeared to be out of danger, as a 15-yard pass play and a 4-yard run by Alex Givens-Perry set up a 2nd and 6 at the 25. However, back to back sacks, the last one by Josh Hanna pushed the ball back to the Indian 10. On fourth down, Bartlett punter Kelly Chisholm, back to kick from his own end zone, scooped up a bad snap and charged forward, just avoiding a safety, but turning the ball over on downs. Facing 1st and goal from their own 1, Clasby scored on the initial play for a 28-0 Northbridge lead.
After a Bartlett punt knocked the Rams back to their own 23, Northbridge proceeded to drive 77 yards on eight plays with Phelan keeping it himself for the score from 10 yards out. A tremendous 38-yard diving catch by Ryan of a well thrown Phelan pass on 3rd and 20 immediately preceded the scoring play.
Taking over the ball at their own 35 with 2:00 in the second quarter, the Indians proceeded to drive 65 yards on six plays to get on the board just before halftime. A nice 36-yard pass from quarterback Ricky Spooner to Belnavis set up a first down at the Northbridge 18. One play later, Givens-Perry marched it in. James Patterson added the extra point, making the halftime score 35-7 in favor of Northbridge.
It appeared that the momentum gained from the late score carried over into the third quarter for the Indians. Taking over at their own 25, Bartlett would advance to the Northbridge 15 in eight plays. Facing a 3rd and 7, Spooner connected with Givens-Perry, but the running back fumbled the ball shortly after picking up the first down. The Indians would recover, and faced a 1st and goal at the Northbridge 6. However, four straight runs were stopped by the Ram defense, with Kyle Stanley stuffing Harry Le for a one-yard loss on fourth down at the Northbridge 2.
The Ram offense would then put the game to bed, traveling 97 yards on only two plays to close out the scoring. From the shadow of their own goal post, Phelan and Ryan connected on a beautiful, diving 47-yard reception. One play later, Phelan would cap the scoring on a 50-yard scoring run avoiding several would-be tacklers in the process for his fourth tally of the day with 3:43 remaining in the third quarter.
A fourth quarter scoring threat powered by 39 yards rushing from Cam Velasquez setting up a 1st and goal at the Bartlett 6 was snuffed out by a stiff Indian defense. Ram backup quarterback Rob Fraser's fourth down run was stopped three yards short of the goal line.
Northbridge returns to action next Friday as they travel to Sturbridge to take on the Tantasqua. Bartlett will be in Warren next Friday to take on Quaboag.