TOWNSEND -- North Middlesex held a 21-14 lead with under a minute left to go. And then, the unthinkable happened. Westborough came roaring back on fourth-and-long with a deep 35-yard pass from Dan Orlando (7-of-13, 128-yards, 3 TD's) to Mike Power who took it to the house to make it 21-20 with 45 seconds remaining in the game. Westborough head coach Mark Ellis made a gutsy call to go for the two-point conversion and it worked out in the Rangers' favor, as Orlando connected with Scott Erikson in the left corner of the end zone to hand the Rangers the eventual, 22-21 victory over North Middlesex at John E. Young Memorial Field.
"We came up an inch short," head coach Sandy Ruggles said after the loss. "We have no one to blame but ourselves. It was a great game. I am just happy to be a part of it."
John Boutwell (19 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD) and the Patriots took over at their own 27-yard line and narrowly mounted a comeback had it not been for a fumble on the sideline by sophomore Ryan MacDonald who appeared to have control of the ball in bounds.
"He had it when he took it out of bounds, but they (Westborough) took it out," Ruggles continued. "That's what it looked like to me."
Boutwell led the troops into the Westborough red zone on their fourth drive of the game behind the hard-nosed running attack of senior stallion Trey Callahan (14 carries, 120-yards).
Boutwell capped off the eight-play, 71-yard drive on a option keeper around the right side. Boutwell pump-faked Westborough defensive end Kevin Sullivan, causing the defender to reach and then somersaulted over the pylon for the touchdown. Matt Wheeler tacked on the extra-point to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead with 7:15 remaining in the second-quarter.
Four-minutes later, Westborough found an answer for the stingy Patriots defense. Michael Gallo helped soften up the Patriots front-line before Orlando cut loose down the right sideline on the keeper to make it 7-7, following the extra-point kick by Jack Chuma.
Westborough and North Middlesex went to the half all knotted up at, 7-7.
Junior running back Tyler Zech (5 carries, 26-yards, 2 TD's) and the Patriots offense came out of the half gobbled up the clock by keeping the game on the ground. Boutwell and the Patriots marched 53-yards on six-plays before Zech capped off the drive with a 5-yard halfback blast up the gut to put the Patriots on top 13-6 with 5:06 remaining in the third-quarter. Wheeler's extra-point attempt missed its mark wide-left.
The North Middlesex defense held its ground and forced the Rangers to go three-and-out as Ryan MacDonald came up huge with a pass breakup on third-and-eight from the Patriots' 43-yard line. North Middlesex took over and picked up where it left off on its last drive. Callahan helped spring the Patriots with a 27-yard first-down pickup right up the shoot.
Zech capped off the drive with a crushing burst up the middle for the 15-yard touchdown. Matt Wetherell hauled in the two-point conversion in the back corner of the end zone to put the Patriots in the driver's seat, 21-7 with 9:39 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing Rangers drive, Orlando showed off his rocket-launcher of an arm. Westborough set-up shop inside its own 40-yard line. On the second-play from scrimmage, Orlando unleashed a deep-ball to Gallo, who romped 56-yards into the end zone to trim the Pats' lead to 21-14, following the Chuma extra-point with 7:55 remaining in regulation.
"We did everything to win the game," Ruggles said. "We just came up a little bit short. We have beat them two-of-the-last three years, and they came back to get us tonight."