To heck with one game at a time. Ashland quarterback Dom Cavanagh said he had Saturday’s Tri-Valley League Large showdown against visiting Holliston “circled all year long.”
The Clockers’ previous three meetings with Holliston were hardly competitive (outscored by an aggregate of 148-14).
So their 35-29 victory over the 11th-ranked Panthers, the program’s first since head coach Andrew MacKay was a senior for Ashland in the fall of 2001, was not so much a weight lifted as a monolith excavated.
“This is monumental,” said Cavanagh, who was 19-of-25 passing for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns, in addition to rushing for a pair of 1-yard scores in the fourth quarter.
“We came in here as freshmen, and we had one goal in mind. We wanted a league title, and we knew we had to go through Holliston to get it. It’s awesome.”
The Clockers (6-0) had a size advantage on the perimeter, and they took advantage all afternoon, with Cavanagh and 6-foot-5-inch receiver Kevin Russell connecting for eight completions, 84 yards and a score.
“I’m super proud of our kids,” said MacKay. “They buy in, and they love each other and they’re close. I’m super proud of them. We knew we could compete. If we can compete and hang in there against good teams, you give yourself a chance.”
But after Ashland seized a 21-7 lead in the third quarter, Holliston (5-1) stormed back, tying it at 21 late in the frame when Tristan Benson ran 21 yards down the left sideline and then bulled his way in for the 2-point conversion.
Cavanagh was strip-sacked by Dylan Ibbitson to hand Holliston a first and 10 at the Ashland 22. But Russell picked off Matt Arvanitis at his own 4, and that turned into a 96-yard scoring drive the other way, capped by Cavanagh’s sneak for a 28-21 lead with 10 minutes to go.
Gryffin Frink landed on a botched Holliston snap at the Panthers’ 2 with four minutes to go, allowing Cavanagh another 1-yard scoring sneak for the two-score lead.
Holliston cut it to 35-29 with two minutes left when Arvanitis scrambled and found Topher Ryan at the back pylon. But the Panthers were unable to recover an onside kick attempt and Ashland ran the clock out.
“We knew what we wanted to do, and I’ll ride with my guys against everybody,” said Cavanagh. “It’s a huge win. We’re grateful, and we’re ready to play some more football.”
BB&N 24, Nobles 21 — Ty Harding had four catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns, including the winning score with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter to lift the Knights (3-2) over the Bulldogs (3-2).
Andover 42, Haverhill 7 — The Golden Warriors (4-2) were led by quarterback Scott Brown who threw three touchdown passes of 50, 27, and 9 yards. Kelvin Davila caught two touchdowns, including a 50-yard strike. Jashua Ramos rushed for two scores.
Bedford 24, Manchester Essex 14 — In a matchup of unbeatens, Greg Cormier (2 rushing TDs, 1 passing) gave the Bucs (6-0) the lead with a 1-yard keeper in the third quarter and Nick Tatarczuk booted a 28-yard field goal as Bedford scored the game’s final 10 points.
Brockton 49, Durfee 8 — Junior Devonte Medley threw touchdown passes of 45, 31, 12, and 5 yards in the first half and Isaiah Laguerre had pair of touchdowns for the Boxers (3-3).
Canton 18, North Attleborough 0 — Two touchdowns from Johnny Hagan — a 13-yard rush in the second quarter and an 8-yarder in the third quarter — kept the 13th-ranked Bulldogs unbeaten at 6-0 in a Hockomock League battle against the Red Rocketeers (2-4).
Cardinal Spellman 26, Bishop Fenwick 20 — Behind a stellar game from Will McAlpine, the host Cardinals (6-0) prevailed in overtime on a 1-yard blast by senior back Jovan Marrero (16 rushes, 80 yards, 2 TDs) to take the Catholic Central Large showdown. On his best throw of the day, McAlpine hit Shane Foley (4 catches for 93 yards) down the sideline for a 9-yard completion to set up the winning score. No. 17 Fenwick dropped to 5-2.
Central Catholic 43, Methuen 8 — Michael Brown scored on a pair of 5-yard touchdown runs as the third-ranked Raiders (5-1) rolled past the Rangers (4-2). Ayden Pereira threw for a score and rushed for another, while Nick Donatio broke the game open with a 30-yard pick-6 in the second quarter.
Concord-Carlisle 41, Newton South 35 — The Patriots (6-0) battled back on the road to outscore their opponents, 21-0, in the fourth quarter and overcome a 15-point halftime deficit. Eddie Jelin scored four touchdowns, including one in the fourth quarter, and Jordan Corbett ran in the winner from 8 yards out.
Hanover 39, Quincy 0 — Running back Ethan Ritchie had a pair of touchdowns including a 32-yard score on the opening drive of the game. Quarterback Chase Brewster threw two touchdown passes, connecting with Pat Damon and Pat Langan for scores of 13 and 27 yards, respectively.
St. John’s Prep 10, BC High 0 — Liam Fabbri drilled a 31-yard field goal in the first quarter and Matt Duchemin hauled in a 51-yard TD pass from Matt Crowley in the second quarter and the second-ranked Eagles (6-1) held on for the Catholic Conference victory in Dorchester.
Dexter Southfield 24, Kingswood-Oxford 21 — Freshman Andrew Lee kicked a 28-yard field goal with 8 seconds left to lift DS (5-0) to the victory.
KIPP Academy 40, Keefe Tech 6 — The host Broncos (3-3) struck first with a 50-yard pick-6, but the Panthers (4-2) responded with 40 unanswered points, punctuated by a 26-point second quarter. Danyel Oluwasuyi continued to be a force on the ground with 171 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, and quarterback Piero Canales racked up 169 yards and two scores on just seven carries.
Danvers 26, Beverly 19 — The Falcons (6-0) had to dig deep to stay undefeated in a tough road game against their Northeastern Conference foe, but a big effort by running back Rich Canova (32 carries, 172 yards) kept the chains moving on offense. Canova scored on a 21-yard pass from Ezra Lombardi and rushed in the winning touchdown from 5 yards out.
Lincoln-Sudbury 21, Westford 3 — The Warriors (5-1) had three players score touchdowns as they won easily over the Grey Ghosts (3-3). Leon Mulrain punched it in from 1 yard out for a first-quarter score, and Collin Murphy ran it in from 3 yards out, and Jack Malone had the play of the game as he broke off a 48-yard touchdown run in the third.
Lynn Classical 58, Gloucester 6 — Senior quarterback Danny Gisonno threw touchdown passes of 22, 60, 71, 15, and 45 yards and ran for another for the Rams (4-3) in a Northeastern Conference crossover game.
Mystic Valley 23, Chelsea 8 — Senior Haley Tom Chataigne rushed for 126 yards and a pair of TDs, and forced and recovered a fumble for MV.
Rivers 20, St. Mark’s 12 — The Red Wings (2-3) trailed 12-0 at the break, but rallied behind QB Brian Gonsalves, who hit Trevor Noble with a 4-yard scoring pass, produced a 43-yard run on the next possession for the lead, and added a 24-yard TD pass to Kalyl Lindsey in the fourth quarter.
Middlesex 26, Brooks 0 — Colin Cunningham scored on 34- and 8-yard runs in the second half to propel the Zebras (2-2-1) to the ISL win in North Andover. Cole Nye broke off a 45-yard touchdown run for the first score of the game.
Silver Lake 55, Middleborough 13 — Sean Waters returned a fumble 90 yards for a score in the first quarter and hauled in TD catches of 5, 15, and 7 yards for the Lakers (3-3). Quarterback Ben Lofstrom also had an 85-yard touchdown strike to Owen Thompson and a 64-yard scoring run.
Tabor 34, Lawrence Academy 7 — Reid Tolley fired four touchdown passes and Javar Williams had two TDs for the Seawolves.
St. Sebastian’s 35, Roxbury Latin 13 — Mike Phelps tossed touchdown passes to Aidan Harrington (18 yards), Sam Frisoli (25), and Louis Hanson (15) and ran for a 28-yard score to carry the visiting Arrows (3-2).
Stoughton 14, Milford 10 — A 5-yard touchdown run from Christopher Ais in the third quarter proved to be the winner for the Black Knights (5-1, 3-1) in a Hockomock-Davenport Division win over the Scarlet Hawks (3-3, 2-2).
Wellesley 35, Brookline 0 — James Dolan started the scoring with a 7-yard burst and Matt Maiona connected with Anthony Perez on a 57-yard TD later in the first quarter in powering the Raiders (5-1) to the Bay State Conference win.
Greater Lowell 37, Northeast 24 — The Gryphons (5-1) took a 24-12 lead into the break thanks to a strong first half and staved off the Golden Knights’ comeback effort. Quarterback Jacob Trzcienski opened Greater Lowell’s scoring with a 75-yard kick return for a touchdown, ran in a 10-yard TD, and completed all five of his passes for 151 yards and two scores.
Old Colony 23, Upper Cape 16 — Running back Blake Dennison rushed for two touchdowns and 96 yards on 16 carries. Thomas Stanton ran for 46 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Lynn Tech 27, Georgetown 7 — Running back Haidar Bdaiwi carried the ball 25 times for 152 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers (5-1) rolled. Running back Gabriel Perez had 97 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Nate Weitzer and Ian Vescera contributed to this report.