Football Team Makes Play-offs; Loses to Norwell 14-13

In the Oct. 12 game with Norwell, Rockland got a taste of Norwell’s defense. The Dogs lost to Norwell in the opening round of the playoffs. photo courtesy Rockland High Sports

Joe Taft, Veritas Sports Editor

Following two blowouts to end the season, (one win and one loss) the Bulldogs finished at 3-4. Though they technically had a losing record, they squeezed their way into the playoffs as the seven seed in Division 3. This matched them up against the Norwell Clippers, the two seed, in the opening round on Friday night, November 28. In a close game at Norwell’s stadium, Rockland lost 13-14 to the Clippers.

Norwell started the game with a score. Bryce Griffin found the end zone on a four yard TD run with 4:21 to go in the first. The Dogs were unable to put any points up in their next drive, but a 51 yard punt by junior Zach Sharland put Norwell on their own 1-yard line. After a 3-and-out and a short punt, Rockland took over at the Norwell 25. Senior QB Matt Dunn made quick work of the Norwell defense, and found senior RB John Goode on an 11-yarder to put up 6 points. Freshman Matt Dalton’s PAT tied the game at 7.

Quarterback Dunn played exceptionally well on Friday night, and all season, but the unsung heroes of the team were the ones battling on the offensive and defensive line. Seniors John MacDonald and Tim Kane were the guys who put their bodies on the line every play, and usually got the job done.

Head coach Brian Kelliher named these two his unsung heroes because, though they aren’t the flashy type, they get it done. Coach Kelliher said, “They both work extremely hard in practice and both are team leaders, and because of injuries they both are playing the entire game.”

MacDonald was rather proud of the recognition he received from his coach.

“Ah, you know man it means a lot because I’ve never really been recognized by the fans or the paper for all the hard work I put in down in the trenches.”

At the end of the half, Dunn tossed up a 31 yard Hail Mary attempt. Senior corner, Cameron Olsen (playing wide-receiver to fill in for the injured Jakigh Marcelin) made the grab and it seemed that Rockland was going into the half with the lead. But Olsen was marked out of bounds by the referee, and the game stayed at 7.

Norwell found the end-zone again to start the second half. Bryce Griffin scored his second of the game with a 1-yard run with 3:01 to go in the third.

With about 3 minutes to go in the game, the Dogs batted down a pass on fourth down to give them the ball at their own 18-yard line. As the 7-seed, Rockland collectively thought, “Why not us?” and stormed up the field. With Matt Dunn under center, play after play was made. Dunn tossed it over to Goode for a 1 yard touchdown run with 13 seconds to play.

Rockland’s coaching staff ultimately decided to go for the win. They kept their offense on the field for the 2-point conversion. There is something to be said about such a risky move, and it is that the ideology of Rockland High School sports, even in the most crucial of times, is to keep pushing to get the job done. With momentum in their favor, 2 yards away from a win, they went for it all, and in the biggest moment of the season, Coach Kelliher looked where else, but his offensive line to come through for him.

“All I could think about was my block.” MacDonald said after the game. “And how I could get Johnny Goode into the end zone.”

But Norwell held their line, and Goode was tackled at the 2-yard line; the onside kick was recovered by Norwell. Final score: Norwell 14 – Rockland 13.

Rockland was defeated, but had nothing to lose and gave Norwell a serious run for their money. The effort was always there, especially for the seniors, and the line.“I think our line’s effort has been great this year.” MacDonald said. “We had to fight through Dom (Ferrante’s) injury and move a few guys around, but we got over the changes we had to make, and had a really solid line.”

Though they are no longer in the playoffs, the Bulldogs will continue to play in their consolation games against Pembroke and Whitman-Hanson, and will play East Bridgewater on Thanksgiving Day.

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