GROTON -- It's not often that the punting unit ends up being the deciding factor in a tightly-contested ballgame.
But that's exactly what happened last Thursday night as Groton-Dunstable Crusaders punter Kyle Battles and his coverage team forced three muffed punts that led to 14 G-D points and a 20-13 victory over the Westboro Rangers.
The win evened the Crusaders' record at 2-2, while the Rangers fell to 1-3.
After falling behind 7-0 with 4:03 left in the first quarter and failing to convert on a 3rd-and-17, Battles let off a booming punt that glanced off the Westboro return man, unbeknownst to him. The Crusaders coverage team pounced on the ball, and after discussion by the officials, they retained possession.
This led to a 19-yard touchdown pass from Bradley teDuits (11-of-13, 127 yards) to Tristan Naboicheck, tying the game at 7.
On their next drive, the Crusaders got the eventual winning score as teDuits lofted a 37-yard jump ball to Sam Battles, who skied over his defender in the corner of the end zone to make it 14-7.
Kyle Battles and the Crusader punt team struck again shortly before halftime. After their offense was knocked back three yards on 3rd-and-1, Battles spotted a punt perfectly at the Westboro 1-yard line, which they again failed to field cleanly, leading to a recovery and a one-yard score by Shamus Gelinas.
Michael Keogh led the Rangers offense with 11 carries for 95 yards and both Ranger touchdowns.
G-D head coach Tom Sousa was relieved to finally have a competitive game after being shut out by 40+ points in two of their first three games and winning 42-6 over North Middlesex in between.
"It was a gritty win," Sousa said. "It wasn't pretty in any way, but we had to battle, and we got that done. That's a win we can definitely feel good about."