TOWNSEND — All is well on Ruggles Ranch.
North Middlesex (5-2) captured at least a share of the Midland B title with a 28-14 win over league foe Hudson (2-5). The Patriots will have to wait until the conclusion of Thanksgiving Day to find out if the Midland B is theirs and theirs alone, as Westboro and Algonquin meet that morning.
The win marks North Middlesex’s first league title since 1995.
“It is a great night to be a Patriot,” North Middlesex head coach Sandy Ruggles said. “Our kids really stepped up when they needed to. The kids think of their teammates over themselves. When we last won the championship in 1995, we were a senior-laden team. That ’95 team was a veteran group that had been through the wars — many had been playing since their sophomore year — then, it was expected for us to win it. In contrast to this year’s team, no one expected us to win it. This group is hungry and it never said die all season.”
Senior captain Tyler Zech rushed for 105 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.
“Pound for pound, there is no tougher kid that I have ever coached,” Ruggles said. “He is small on the outside, but when you cut him open, he is a Patriot on and off the field.”
North Middlesex drove 56 yards in 1:05 behind the strong running of Zech and Ryan MacDonald.
Patriots senior quarterback John Boutwell (11 of 15) eventually stuffed it in the end zone with a 12-yard scamper to the left side to make it 7-0 with 8:53 seconds remaining in the first quarter, following the made extra point by MacDonald.
The Patriots defense cashed in on a lame duck from Hudson quarterback Armel Conyers that was picked off by North Middlesex senior captain Matt Wetherell at the NM 25.
North Middlesex marched the ball down inside the Hudson 20-yard line in just seven plays behind a 56-yard rush from MacDonald and an 18-yard scamper from Zech. Boutwell dialed up the man who started the drive on the defensive side, Wetherell, for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds left in the half.
The Patriots started the second half with the ball at their own 35. Boutwell dissected the Hudson secondary with a couple quick strikes to MacDonald. Unsuccessful quarterback keepers from Boutwell setup a 3rd and 8 from the Hudson 19-yard line. The Hawks brought the heat on Boutwell who was greeted with a blistering hit from Hudson’s Liam Haley as he threw, but the senior quarterback kept his curl and lofted a high-arcing ball to Wetherell, who came down with in the left corner of the end zone to stretch North Middlesex’s lead to 19-0. The Patriots opted to go for two.
Boutwell lined up as the holder and flipped the ball to MacDonald, who zipped around the left-end to extend NM’s lead to 21-0 with 9:41 remaining in the third quarter.
Hudson answered with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns, but the North Middlesex defense held on for the win.
“We are not satisfied with a league title — this is only just the beginning,” Ruggles said. “We accomplished our first goal and this season is over. We start with a new season next week. The boys are drinking the Kool Aid, and they’ve done a great job drinking it.”
Jake Hachey added an interception for the Patriots.
Follow Ed Niser on Twitter/Tout: @EdNiser.