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North Middlesex senior linebacker Jesse Cronin tackles Marlboro running back Willy Cowdrey in the first quarter of the first quarter.

TOWNSEND — All is Boutwell in Townsend.

North Middlesex (4-2, 3-1 Midland B) senior quarterback John Boutwell rushed for three touchdowns to push the Patriots past Marlboro (3-3, 3-1 Midland B), 21-7, setting up a date for the Midland B league title next Friday night at home against Hudson.

The Patriots have a chance to compete for a league title for the first time since 1995.

“I can’t be any prouder of the kids,” North Middlesex head coach Sandy Ruggles said. “They did a fabulous job. We dealt with adversity on our first offensive possession, when we fumbled inside the 30-yard line and did not recover. Our kids played a great game against a good football team. When we went up 21-7, I started to breathe a little easier.”

Coming into the game, Ruggles and his coaching staff knew that the defense had to key on Marlboro running back Willy Cowdrey. The Patriots defense limited the shifty back to 100 yards on 19 carries.

“I lose sleep because of him (Cowdrey),” Ruggles said. “He burned us for 160 yards last season. We did a good job defensively across-the-board.”

North Middlesex senior captain Tyler Zech slashed and dashed his way to a team-high 96 yards on 18 carries.

The Patriots fumbled the ball at the 30-yard line on its first possession. However, North Middlesex’s gritty defense helped bail out the offense forcing the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs at the NM 18-yard line.

A 14-yard bullet to Ryan MacDonald (5 catches, 94 yards) from Boutwell (8 of 10, 145 yards) put North Middlesex in Marlboro territory. The two-headed rushing attack of Boutwell and Zech set up a third-and-goal from the Marlboro 2-yard line.

Boutwell called his own number and followed the blocks of senior center Yanni Halkiadakis and the Patriot offensive line as he plunged up the middle with 16 seconds remaining in the first quarter. MacDonald tacked on the extra point to put North Middlesex out in front 7-0.

“Marlboro was really putting a lot of pressure on us,” Boutwell said. “Their outside linebacker was really coming in hot, which opened up the deep ball on the sidelines to MacDonald and Richie Sharp. All I had to do was give it up to them, and they were there.”

Marlboro backed the North Middlesex defense down to its own 15-yard line, but the Patriots refused to surrender. Boutwell turned around from his linebacker position at the right time and snatched the pass from Brian Short at the 2-yard line.

Boutwell rallied the troops and brought the Patriots 98 yards in 10 plays. On second and 10 from the Marlboro 25, Boutwell airmailed a spiral to Richie Sharp on the right sideline for a 41-yard reception at the Marlboro 34.

Powerful runs from Zech and Boutwell set up third and goal for North Middlesex at the Marlboro 2-yard line. The North Middlesex offensive line parted the Marlboro front four and Boutwell tiptoed up the middle for his second touchdown with 44 seconds remaining in the half. MacDonald tacked on the extra point to make it 14-0 NM at the half.

A 46-yard dart from Boutwell to MacDonald helped North Middlesex get its final touchdown drive flowing. Boutwell tacked on his third rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter to put the Panthers’ hopes at a comeback to rest.

“Lady luck was on our side,” Ruggles said. “Sometimes, I’d rather be lucky than good.”

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