Grady Russo, who stood out on both offense and defense, tries to shake off a tackle.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Down 14-0 in the third quarter and getting stuffed on the one-yard line on a failed fourth down conversion, the Dover-Sherborn football team had every opportunity to quit Friday afternoon against Bellingham. Their bleachers were barely half-full, it was cold, it was windy, it was downpouring, and the team’s offense is built around the pass.
Credit to The Raiders for instead storming back and almost pulling off the comeback, in what would eventually be a 20-12 loss.
In a first half that featured both teams going for every fourth down rather than bothering to punt in the inclement conditions, The Raiders got burned on a long playaction pass for the game’s first touchdown. The Raider defense stepped up to sack the quarterback on the two-point conversion attempt, however, and Bellingham led 6-0.
In the second half, a long run from Bellingham and a successful two-point conversion gave them the 14-0 lead. Then, after a long run from John Bennett brought the ball to the one-yard line, Dover-Sherborn couldn’t punch it in. Efosa Imade was eventually stuffed on a fourth down run up the middle. But with Bellingham backed up against their own goal line, the Raiders defense stepped up, forcing a three-and-out that gave them the ball back with a very short field after a Bellingham punt. John Bennett scored soon after, but the extra point was no good. The game was 14-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, The Raiders opted to try an onside kick, which went out of bounds and gave Bellingham a short field themselves. The Blackhawks then marched down the field and scored again. After a bad conversion attempt, the game was 20-6.
With little time to work with, The Raiders slung the ball around the field, culminating in a touchdown pass from Kirby Ryan to John Bennett. With about five minutes left, The Raiders opted to kick it deep and hope their defense could get a stop. To their credit, they did - and after a few more Kirby passes, Dover-Sherborn was on the precipice of tying the game.
Unfortunately, an interception ended the drive, and the Raider defense wasn’t able to keep Bellingham from running out the clock with a first down on the ground.
Raider Coach Steve Ryan noted that weather is “the great equalizer,” and that their offense is predicated on throwing the ball - which is extremely difficult in slick weather with ice-cold hands. Many times, balls slipped out of Raider receivers’ hands on plays that could have completely changed the game. Ryan also pointed to the play of John Bennett and Grady Russo as high points.
But on a miserable day, after finding themselves in a miserable position, the real high point was that the Raiders didn’t pack up and quit, given every reason to do so.