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Clocker comeback stuns Warriors in OT

James Wilder (3) avoids an Ashland tackler and cuts up the middle on one of his team-high 26 carries.

By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor

Medfield High School varsity football traveled to Ashland on Friday afternoon shorthanded, as three key members (TJ Casey, Jared Hirschfeld, Sam Patry) of the Warriors (1-4) were forced out due to COVID protocols. Medfield looked to respond following a tough 35-7 defeat at Holliston on April 9, while the Clockers (4-1) looked to clinch a share of TVL Large with a victory.

With Casey sidelined for the second consecutive week, star wideout James Wilder was slotted back into the starting running back spot. Despite the lack of depth behind Wilder, as well as missing Hirschfeld up front to block, the move to Wilder as Medfield's lead ballcarrier supercharged Medfield's offense.

Medfield's defense forced Ashland to consecutive three-and-outs to open the game. With the game still scoreless towards the tail end of the first quarter, Ryan Murray led the Warriors on a 64-yard drive with multiple first-down runs on quarterback keepers. Murray capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 10:57 to play in the second quarter to give Medfield a 7-0 lead.

A sack by senior linebacker Phil Parker and a tackle for a loss on third down by senior defensive end Demetrios Tassiopoulos forced Ashland's offense to another three-and-out. On the second play of the ensuing possession, Wilder (26 carries, 205 yards, two touchdowns) took a handoff up the middle, cut to his left and dashed 77 yards untouched for a touchdown to double Medfield's lead to 14-0 with 8:55 remaining in the half.

Following Wilder's long score, Medfield's defense again forced Ashland to punt, setting up Murray and the offense at midfield. A 12-yard run by Murray on a read-option moved the ball down to the 31-yard-line. On fourth and three, Medfield turned back to Wilder, who delivered the Warriors a first down and more, breaking a series of tackles before stiff-arming his way into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown run. Wilder's second score of the day gave Medfield a 21-0 lead with 3:14 to play in the half.

Ashland changed the scheme of its offense on the Clockers final possession of the first half. Instead of running their base package of receivers split out wide, the Clockers converged to an option-style of offense called "Diesel," where all 11 men lineup in a bunched power set under center. The new look seemed to confuse Medfield's defense, as the Clockers were able to slowly march into Medfield territory with under 30 seconds to play before halftime. The Warriors were able to force Ashland to a fourth-down and seven with 22 seconds to play. On the fourth down play, Ashland switched back into their base offense. Senior quarterback Luke Herter dropped back in the pocket and found senior wideout Nick Fish in a curl route. Fish broke a tackle and sprinted 19 yards for a touchdown to get Ashland on the board. Despite surrendering the late score, Medfield still brought a 21-7 lead into halftime.

Neither team was able to generate much on offense in the third quarter. However, a big catch-and-run by Fish at the tail end of the frame allowed Ashland to move the ball inside the red zone. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Fish punched home a one-yard touchdown to get to the Clockers within a score at 21-13 with 11:52 remaining (PAT no-good).

A punt on Medfield's next possession gave Ashland the ball back at their own 30 with about seven minutes to play. The Clockers drove down to the one-yard-line before quarterback Luke Herter left the game with an injury. Backup quarterback Ethan Antoniuk came on in relief and punched in a one-yard sneak to get Ashland within a two-point conversion of tying with 3:05 to play. On the two-point try, Antoniuk optioned to his left and plunged into a pile of bodies at the goal line. Antoniuk's knee appeared to be down with the ball short of the goal line. However, after conferencing, the officials ruled the two-point try successful. The conversion tied the game at 21 and forced it into overtime.

Ashland took the ball to begin the overtime and scored on the first play from scrimmage, a 10-yard touchdown run by Nick Fish. Luke Herter came back in for the two-point conversion attempt and punched in a two-yard quarterback keeper to give Ashland a 29-27 lead. On the first play of Medfield's possession, Ryan Murray faked a handoff to Wilder on a play-action before scrambling out to his left and hitting Matt McTavish for a 10-yard touchdown out in the flat, bringing the Warriors to within a two-point conversion of a second overtime. On the two-point try, Murray took the snap and attempted a quarterback keeper to the right. Murray was hit behind the line of scrimmage by a gang of Ashland tacklers as the try went unsuccessfully. Ashland completed the comeback and won by a 29-27 final.

Medfield will finish out its season on April 22 against arch rival Dover-Sherborn.

For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.

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