By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The Dover-Sherborn Regional High School varsity football team has bursted out of the gates to begin this 2021 Fall II athletic season.
The season began for the Raiders (2-0) with a rare Tuesday night matchup on March 23 against the Dedham Marauders at Nora Searle Field. From the start, it was all DS. Junior quarterback and co-captain Grady Russo connected with sophomore running back Michael Polk out in the flat for a 40-yard touchdown on the game's opening series, giving the Raiders a 6-0 lead just 1:07 into the season (PAT no-good).
Following a three-and-out by Dedham, Russo led DS right back down the field and capped off the drive with a 15-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown, extending the lead to 13-0 with 6:14 to play in the opening quarter. After Dover-Sherborn's defense forced Dedham to punt on the ensuing series, senior captain and return man Johnny Bennett took the punt back 71 yards to give the Raiders a three-possession lead at 20-0 at the end of one quarter of play.
Dedham's offense put together a scoring drive to open the second quarter, cutting the deficit to 13 at 20-7. Following back-to-back punts by the Raiders, Dedham drove the ball down inside the five-yard line with under 20 seconds to play in the half looking to cut it to a one-possession game with a touchdown. The game's turning point came on the final play of the half, as senior linebacker Nick Rinaldi intercepted a pass at the one-yard line and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. The pick-six by Rinaldi gave the Raiders a commanding 27-7 lead at halftime.
The Raiders continued to pound the ball to begin the second half. On the opening possession, DS marched right down the field, capped by a 16-yard touchdown run to the left corner of the end zone by Rinaldi to make it a 34-7 game. Back-to-back touchdown drives by Dedham to begin the fourth quarter trimmed the lead to 34-22, but an interception in the end zone by freshman defensive back Emilio Cabey with 1:51 remaining sealed the 12-point win for the Raiders.
Just five days later, the Raiders took to the turf at Nora Searle Field on Sunday to host rival Millis, and the DS defense continued its dominance. Following a scoreless first quarter, the Dover-Sherborn offense came alive early in the second. Russo connected with Bennett for a 37-yard touchdown with 5:14 to play in the half. Following a Millis punt, Russo led the Raiders back down the field before capping off the drive with a 14-yard quarterback keeper to make it a 14-0 game at halftime.
After forcing a three-and-out on the opening series of the second half for Millis, Bennett returned the punt 59 yards for a touchdown to give the Raiders a 21-0 lead with 7:15 to play in the quarter. The DS defense would hold on for the shutout as the Raiders prevailed by the 21-0 final to move to 2-0.
DS will look to move to 3-0 when the Raiders travel to Bellingham on April 3.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.