GRAFTON, Mass.—The Grafton Indians are going to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1988 by beating Lunenburg, 23- 7 in a game that was fought and won by a penetrating running game and a defense that stopped the Blue Knights when it mattered.
It was also the 100th career win for Grafton Coach Mike Ross, who was handed the game ball.
Grafton will play Northbridge on Saturday, 11:30 a.m. at Fitchburg State University for the Division 4 title. It will be a repeat visit for Ross, who as Indians team captain in 1986, lead them to victory at the big game.
But they might have to go without star running back, Cody Munoz who suffered, what appeared to be, a knee injury in the third quarter during Tuesday night's game.
With cold weather and snow flurries the Indians threw the ball only once, opting for a productive running game.
Ross was thinking about Northbridge and the Super Bowl even as the team celebrated on the field. When asked what the strategy will be he said, “We’re going to run the ball, baby.”
The key to the Indians' win was gaining possession, eating up the clock and then scoring. In the first quarter, Grafton won the coin toss, ran 12 running plays starting at their own 43 yard line after a sideline kickoff return, and then finished it with 2:09 left when junior Dillon O’Brien ran it in. The kicker, Brian Zimmer, missed the extra point, but they were up 6-0 heading into the second quarter.
The defense kicked in, stopping Lunenburg on four plays. But the Blue Knights hung in there. They, in turn, stopped Grafton on four plays, and with only 5:45 till the half, quarterback Greg Abare, aided by an offside penalty by Grafton, turned five running plays in under two minutes and briefly took a 7-6 lead with the extra point.
That would be the last of Lunenburg’s offense. Grafton pushed down the field, lead by running back Munoz, and a perfect pass to tight end Alan Long that landed the Indians on Lunenburg’s 18 yard line with under three minutes till halftime.
Grafton ran the clock to 28 seconds, and then sent in Zimmer for a 27 yard field goal that ricocheted off the uprights before clearing and sending them into the locker room ahead 9-7.
Lunenburg was frustrated time and again by the Grafton defense in the second half. They started the third quarter by running the ball on nine plays, starting on their own 38 yard line, powered to the Grafton 33 yard line before Abare was sacked by running backs Mike Schena and Corey Charpentier, pushing the Blue Knights back to the 44 yard line, ending their drive.
By the start of the fourth quarter, Grafton pulled away with a 17 yard run by Munoz, who left the game with an ankle injury. But sophomore running back, Brian Diaz and senior fullback John Coughlin stepped up, carrying the ball for a combined five times, eating up over five minutes in the fourth quarter before junior Dillon O’Brien ran the ball up the middle, and with the extra point, the Grafton Indians had all they needed to head to the Super Bowl.