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WORCESTER — The Groton-Dunstable defense came out and knocked Central Mass. power St. Peter-Marian in the mouth in the first half.

But the Crusaders (1-1) saw their 12-0 halftime lead go by the boards as St. Peter-Marian’s offense, coupled with the help of some Groton-Dunstable penalties, found its groove.

St. Peter-Marian took the lead for good on a slant pass from Dan Malm (16 of 24, 225 yards, 3 TD’S, 2 INT’s) to Tyler Contulis, who raced 64 yards down the home sideline for the touchdown to lift the Guardians to a 21-15 come-from-behind victory Saturday afternoon at Guardian Field.

Matt Dumphy paced the Guardians’ offense with eight catches for 93 yards — including a 35-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. St. Peter-Marian tied the game at 15-15 on a 12-yard touchdown pass to P.J. Barry seven seconds into the fourth quarter.

“We had chances,” said Groton-Dunstable head coach Tom Sousa. “That No. 7 (Dumphy) is a difference maker.”

Groton-Dunstable quarterback Michael Tammaro (11 of 17, 100 yards) and Logan Higgins (16 carries, 72 yards, TD) carried the Crusaders’ offense.

Tammaro heaved a bomb to junior Shamus Gelinas, who trotted 38 yards to put the Crusaders at the Guardian 15. Tammaro put the ball in the gut of Higgins, who shook off a host of St. Peter-Marian defenders before tucking inside the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown with 9:40 remaining in the first quarter.

Two minutes later, Groton-Dunstable defensive end Kasey Griffiths blocked a punt that trickled over the end line for a safety to extend Groton-Dunstable’s lead to 9-0.

“The defense played well for us pretty much all day,” said Sousa. “We had some tough spots there in the second half. We weren’t converting enough fourth downs to give them enough of a chance to regroup. I thought we played well on defense almost all day. There’s a lot we can build off after a game like today.”

After receiving the free kick after the safety, G-D turned to its sure-footed kicker Kyle Battles, who drilled a 31-yard attempt through the uprights to make it 12-0 with 4:00 remaining in the first quarter, which is where the score would stand heading into the half.

Battles nailed his second field goal of the game from 21 yards out to extend the Groton-Dunstable lead to 15-0 with 8:55 remaining in the third. But that’s when it all came apart for the Crusaders.

Gelinas had a pair of fumble recoveries and an interception, while Dillon Eberhardt added a pick to lead the Groton defense.