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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
It was an instant classic on the gridiron on Saturday afternoon as the Walpole High School football team held off a furious rally by the Wellesley Raiders (1-1) to earn a 42-35 victory in the Rebels’ (2-0) home-opener.
Running back Chris Reilly capped off an 11-play game-opening drive with a two-yard touchdown run to give the Rebels an early 7-0 lead. After each team exchanged punts, Wellesley quarterback Matt Maiona hooked up with wide-out Teddy Komjathy for a 46-yard catch-and-run to the end zone to knot the game at seven with 3:00 to play in the opening quarter.
Wellesley’s defense forced the Rebels to a three-and-out on their next possession, but Walpole was able to force a fumble and recovered at the Raider 31-yard-line to put themselves in business. With 2:48 remaining in the second quarter, quarterback Will Jarvis gave the Rebels back the lead at 14-7 with a nine-yard touchdown scramble down the near sideline. However, Maiona responded with an almost seemingly perfect drive, going 72 yards in just 2:32 before hooking up with Hugh Callahan (seven receptions, 202 yards, two touchdowns) on a slant route from 10 yards out with just 16 seconds remaining to tie the game at 14 at the half.
With 5:24 to play in the third quarter, Walpole caught a break after Wellesley fumbled a punt return, setting up the Rebels at the Raider 33-yard-line. A big completion by Jarvis on third-and-10 to Chase Conrad kept the Rebel drive alive before Jarvis hooked up with Conrad, once again, on a fade route in the back corner of the end zone to reclaim the lead for Walpole at 21-14 with 3:41 to play in the quarter.
On the first play of Wellesley’s ensuing possession, Maiona hooked up with Callahan for a 75-yard catch-and-run to the end zone to cut the deficit in half at 28-21 with 1:21 to play in the third. Drew von Klock immediately responded for the Rebels, however, returning the kickoff that followed to the Wellesley 10-yard-line, setting up a first-and-goal. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Jarvis found Andrew White wide open on a flat route from six yards away for a walk-in touchdown to make it a 35-21 game with 10:56 to play.
The Rebels recovered a fumble on the first play of Wellesley’s next possession, and Jarvis seemingly put the nail of the coffin when he found Conrad for another touchdown, this time from 15 yards out, to make it a 42-21 game with 10:20 remaining in the contest.
However, Wellesley did anything but go down quietly.
Chris Althoff rushed one in from four yards out on the next Raiders possession to make it a 42-28 game with 9:01 to play. Wellesley then turned a blocked field goal into points when Maiona rushed one in from two yards out to cut the deficit to just 42-35 with 3:50 to play.
The Wellesley defense got the ball back for its offense with 2:37 to play after forcing a three-and-out, but the Rebel defense stood strong and forced a turnover on downs to allow Jarvis and the offense to take over possession and kneel to victory.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.