The Roxbury Gaels knew before they took the field Friday night that their chances of reaching the postseason and making a run for a second consecutive state championship had already been abolished. The news, however, did not seem to discourage the Gaels.
Pride and team legacy motivated the Gaels to pick up the victory, snapping their five-game losing streak while on their home turf and in front of their home crowd.
Behind Grant Dixon’s fifth touchdown pass of the season and a pair of rushing scores from Alex Watson, the Gaels defeated the Chatham Cougars by a final score of 21-7, putting a check in the win column for the first time since their second game of the season.
“It’s real big,” Dixon, a sophomore said. “We’re playing like it’s a three game season. We got one down, so now there are two more to go.”
Dixon finished the night 7-18 passing with 120 yards through the air, including a 22-yard touchdown pass on the Gaels’ opening possession of the game. While partially rolling out of the pocket, the first-year varsity starter delivered a strike to senior WR Justin Irwin in the back corner of the end zone.
Senior RB/DB Alex Watson accounted for the remainder of the Gaels’ offense, scoring his first points of the season with a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. On the first possession of the second half, Watson punched the ball in from one yard out, just crossing the plane to cap off a lengthy drive that had sustained three third down and two fourth down conversions.
“I thought that we played great defense,” head coach Coach Lorusso said. “Guys were swarming to the football, we made some big plays that we had to make, and our kids played with a lot of enthusiasm.”
After surrendering 31 points in a blowout loss at Randolph in their previous game, the Gaels were much more effective on the defensive side of the ball, forcing three turnovers in the game.
Junior RB/CB Christopher Snow picked off a pass in the latter minutes of the first half, while sophomore RB/S Craig Roumes recorded his third interception of the season in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, linebackers Dillon Artigliere and Kyle Eckert each picked up a sack, and junior Phillip Infermo recovered a fumble caused by senior OL/DL Brett McAllister.
Chatham’s only points of the night came in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter via a four-yard touchdown run by sophomore Matt Nestler.
“We played together. Our line played together. It was an overall team effort,” said Dixon. “We started off with a good pass, Justin [Irwin] in the corner of the end zone. All night we ran it down their throats and they couldn’t do anything against us offensively.”
Next Friday, the Gaels (3-5) will host the Mount Olive Marauders (3-5), who are coming off a 34-0 home loss at the hands of undefeated state power Pope John XXIII.
On Saturday, Chatham (0-7) will try to finish their regular season off on a strong note by ending their 19-game losing streak against Morris Hills (4-4).
It has not yet been determined who Chatham and Roxbury will face in their respective consolation games.
“…Our goal was to try and win these last three games,” Lorusso said with a positive mindset. “It is like a little mini three-game season to come out .500. That’s a very respectable thing.”
“We got Mount Olive and then we have a consolation game, but we’ll treat it like a playoff game,” Dixon said. “It’s one game at a time, so right now, we’re enjoying the win, but next week we’re focusing on Mount Olive.”
“This is about pride and for the seniors, it’s what your legacy is going to be, what you are passing down, and making sure that you finish what you start,” Lorusso said. “For the young guys, it’s about building for next year.”
Chatham 0 0 0 7 7
Roxbury 7 7 7 0 21
Grant Dixon 22-yard TD pass to Justin Irwin; (Jack Clevenger’s PAT is good)
Alex Watson 4-yard TD run (1); (Jack Clevenger’s PAT is good)
Roxbury’s Christopher Snow intercepts Chatham QB Alex Sands; play results in Chatham touchback
Alex Watson 1-yard TD run (2); (Jack Clevenger’s PAT is good)
Matt Nestler 4-yard TD run (PAT is good)
• Roxbury’s Craig Roumes intercepts Alex Sands; medium return
• Brett McAllister forces fumble; recovered by Anthony Infermo; no return