HUDSON — Hudson (8-0) quarterback Dan Mendes (10-for-13, 221 yards, 2 touchdowns) left little doubt as to why his team was undefeated coming into Friday night’s Div. 4 quarterfinals match-up with Groton-Dunstable.
The depleted Crusaders defense had no answer for the run-first attack the Hawks were dealing, as Groton-Dunstable was eliminated from the postseason by way of a 35-14 defeat.
Mendes amassed 432 yards of total offense and scored four touchdowns, two-of-which on the ground to lead No. 2 Hudson past No. 7 Groton-Dunstable.
Groton-Dunstable was without its starting quarterback Quintin Forbes who went down with a shattered finger on his throwing hand.
“We came in banged up,” Groton-Dunstable head coach Derek Asadoorian said. “We had two of our best players out. We lost three more of our skill players early in the game. We are thing as it is. We had a game-plan coming in, and we basically had to throw that out the window.”
Backup quarterback Cory Romich was 6-of-14 for 62-yards and threw two interceptions in the loss for the Crusaders.
Hudson received the ball to start the game, and made the most of the opportunity it was given.
The Hawks set-up shop on their own 27-yard line following the kickoff.
Groton-Dunstable’s defense led by senior linebacker Ronnie Peck backed the Hawks into a corner, which forced a third-and-six from Hudson’s own, 31.
But, Mendes came up huge on the next play for the Hawks. The senior signal caller rolled to his right on the option-keeper and took off down the far sideline for a healthy gain of 35-yards.
Mendes methodically picked apart the undermanned Groton-Dunstable secondary with a beautiful 34-yard touchdown bullet to Evan Cain. Mendes tacked on the extra point to put the Hawks up 7-0 with 7:30 remaining in the first quarter.
Groton-Dunstable failed to get anything going offensively on its ensuing possession.
On the next Hudson drive, the Crusaders received a little help from the football gods.
A botched shotgun snap sailed 8-yards over Mendes’s head. Peck was able to scoop up the ball and rumble down inside the Hudson 45-yard line. Romich hooked up with Drew Moore down the left sideline for a 36-yard pickup on the play.
The speedster, Evan Lexo finessed his way up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown to make it 7-6 with 5:20 remaining in the second quarter. Eric Yanchenko’s point-after attempt was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by Dylan Rich.
It did not take long for the Hawks to punch another one across the goal line. Mendes scampered for 67 yards down to the Crusaders’ 3-yard line. Mendes hit Jesse Nemerowicz on a 2-yard screen right to make it 14-6 following the extra-point with 4:17 left in the half.
Groton-Dunstable got the ball back and after a couple of large gains, brought the ball down into the Hudson red zone for the second time of the evening. The Crusaders eventually knocked down the door. Shane Dawson bulldozed into the end zone.
Groton-Dunstable’s gamble to go for two-points paid dividends. Romich hit Lexo in the right corner of the end zone to make it 14-14 with 2:34 remaining in the second quarter. Groton-Dunstable’s defense fell victim, yet again, to the big play. Mendes connected with his primary target, Cain, (5 catches, 161-yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception), down the sideline for a 34-yard gain. Mendes bootlegged right and scampered into the end zone to put the Hawks up 21-14 at the half.
Hudson lit-up Groton-Dunstable for 14-unanswered points in the second half, as the Crusaders fall to 4-4 on the season. The Crusaders will face Quabbin next Friday in a losers’ bracket match-up.
“We showed some grit hanging tough in there,” Asadoorian said. “We really should have gone into the half tied, but we just gave up big plays. We didn’t execute when it mattered. We didn’t play enough to hang with them and get the win.”