ASHBURNHAM — By the time the Spartans found their stride Friday night, it was already too late.

Visiting Groton-Dunstable Regional took control early at Arthur I. Hurd Memorial Field, shutting down Oakmont Regional’s high-octane offense while piling on points early in a 33-20 victory.

“We came in feeling like we could play here,” Crusaders head coach Tom Sousa said. “This is a big one for us. We came in ready and it showed.”

The Spartans (5-2) led briefly, taking a 7-6 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by Xavian Dean in the first quarter and Cole Swanson’s point after. But Oakmont’s lone lead of the night lasted just 19 seconds as the Crusaders (5-2) answered with an 80-yard kickoff return for a score by Tim Stark.

Quarterback Bradley teDuits sneaked in on the two-point try to put Groton-Dunstable up 14-7 and ahead for good.

“The kickoff return was huge,” Sousa said. “Our kids were confident coming in and they didn’t flinch at that point. We’ve had some flinches in the past, but we kept grinding tonight. And I think that affected (Oakmont) a little bit.”

Oakmont had its chances, but each time the Spartans looked to have gained momentum, the Crusaders found a way to steal it back.

Down 21-14 in the second quarter, Oakmont had forced a three-and-out and taken over at its own 28, but on its second play following a punt, Groton’s Colin teDuits picked off a pass to give the guests the ball back at their own 40.

One play later, the Crusaders were in the end zone, courtesy of a 40-yard scoring run by Kyle Plausse and ahead 27-14.

“We have to find it within ourselves to fight and make plays,” Oakmont head coach Nick McNamara said. “I thought they were a great team and they came out and showed why they’re a great team.”

Dean scored Oakmont’s second touchdown of the night, hauling in a 20-yard strike from Colton Bosselait to pull the Spartans to within 21-14 with 7:19 left in the opening half.

After a scoreless third quarter, the teams traded points in the fourth. Plausse fumbled at the Oakmont goal line, but Colin teDuits pounced on the ball in the end zone to put the guests up 33-14 with 5:51 left.

Oakmont answered with 3:57 left on a touchdown reception by Drew Tshudy, who pulled in a Bosselait pass that just got over the fingers of a defender for a 25-yard score.

“I think they did what we thought they would do and they were good at it,” McNamara said. “We just have to come back next week and work harder.”

Groton-Dunstable opened the scoring midway through the first quarter as Plausse caught a 39-yard TD pass from Bradley teDuits for a 6-0 advantage.