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GROTON — The North Middlesex Regional defense rose to the occasion numerous times in Friday night’s 21-20 win at border rival Groton-Dunstable. The Crusaders drew within one with 21.2 seconds remaining on a wobbly, 7-yard trick touchdown pass from Shane Dawson to tight end Danny Howes, who came down in the left side of the end zone.

“It was just an epic football game,” Groton-Dunstable head coach Derek Asadoorian said after the loss. “You’ve got to credit North Middlesex for how they played tonight. I think both teams had good points in the game.”

Asadoorian opted to go for the win and the North Middlesex defense clamped down and stuffed Groton-Dunstable running back Shane Dawson just inches short of the goal line.

“Nobody deserved to lose this game,” North Middlesex veteran head coach Sandy Ruggles said. “Two great teams played a fantastic game. It was a great win for us after coming up short on a 2-point conversion last week at Algonquin. They (G-D) pulled some rabbits out of their hat, but our defense did a nice job weathering the storm. I am very happy.”

The second half was not for the faint of heart.

Groton-Dunstable sophomore quarterback Nathan Forbes, who was filling in for the injured Corey Romich, impressed in his debut with 2 TDs and 86 yards on 18 carries.

“We had our chances, but we just didn’t cash in when we needed to tonight,” Asadoorian said. “It shouldn’t have come down to the end. Before the half, we didn’t get in. And, we gave them the ball on the kickoff. It was a hell of a football game. I am proud of my guys; they battled hard. But in the end, we just didn’t have enough gas in the tank.”

Joey Orlando added 89 yards rushing on 16 carries in the loss for the Crusaders.

Forbes muscled his way into the end zone with 2:41 remaining in the fourth quarter to bring the game level at 14-14.

But the North Middlesex brethren rested their hopes on the shoulders of third-year starting quarterback John Boutwell. And the senior delivered — again and again.

Boutwell and the Patriots took over at their own 20-yard line.

In just two plays, Boutwell (Passing: 8 of 11, 161 yards, 1 TD, Rushing: 12 carries for 55 yards, 1 TD) hooked up with senior co-captain wide receiver Ryan MacDonald (4 catches, 124 yards, 1 TD) on a pair of post routes down the right sideline. And on the second one, MacDonald raced into the end zone to make it 21-14, following the PAT with 1:29 remaining in the game.

The Patriots stopped a third-and-goal from their own 1-yard line and stuffed Groton-Dunstable back Shane Dawson on the doorstep to carry a 7-6 lead into halftime.

“That was definitely a momentum-builder for us,” Ruggles said.”There is no question that was the turning point in tonight’s game.”

—-

Patriots 21

Crusaders 20

North Middlesex (3-1) 7 0 7 7 — 21

Groton-Dunstable 0 6 0 14 — 20

First quarter

NM — John Boutwell 2 run (Ryan MacDonald kick), 6:29

Second quarter

GD — Nathan Forbes 28 run (kick failed), 10:49

Third quarter

NM — Boutwell 5 run (MacDonald kick), 10:11

Fourth quarter

GD — Forbes 1 run (Forbes pass from Drew Moore), 2:07

NM — MacDonald 40 pass from Boutwell (MacDonald kick), 1:29

GD — Danny Howes 7 pass from Dawson (2-point conversion failed), 21.2

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