By Terence Clarey
If last Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day high school football match up between Somerville and Cambridge Rindge and Latin is going to be a new tradition, Somerville hopes that last Thursday’s outcome does not repeat itself as they dropped the first game to new Turkey Day rival Cambridge 34-30.
The Highlanders (1-9) fought hard to the very end of the game but they could not overcome the Cambridge offense and five untimely turnovers of their own, the last being a fumble by offensive machine Phoenix Huertas late in the fourth quarter, which led to a 56-yard touchdown scamper by Cambridge’s Shaquille Anderson that would be the eventual game winner.
“Turnovers at any level of football will hurt you. Sometimes players try and do too much,” said Somerville Head Coach Tony Gulla.
“That might have been the case with a one of those interceptions. The others were more coverage related. Cambridge defenders just made great plays on passes we completed all year.”
On the other hand, Huertas was 21 for 29 with 242 yards and three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
“No one player or one play is ever responsible for the outcome of the game and I told Phoenix that, because as the QB and team leader he is, he took the loss personally. But football is the ultimate team game and we win as a team and we lose as a team.”
The game started positively for Somerville as they scored 15 unanswered points in the first quarter. The first came thanks to James Marin who saved a Somerville punt from bouncing into the Cambridge end zone for a touchback and the ball was downed on the 1-yard line. Richard Guerrier intercepted a pass by Cambridge Quarterback David Maaghul and Marin caught a pass over the middle, broke a tackle and scored on a play covering 21 yards. The extra point made the score 7-0 Somerville.
“James Marin had his best game as a receiver,” said Gulla of Marin, who had eight catches for 84 yards and a touchdown reception and, like Guerrier, played both ways.
“He had a breakout game that we waited all season for.”
Somerville’s next points came on an 80 yard touchdown drive which included passes to Assad Abraham and Jonathan Santana and was capped off by a three yard keeper by Huertas. Anderson Jupiter, going in motion, took an inside hand-off and went in for the two-point score, making it 15-0 Somerville.
If the first quarter belonged to Somerville, the second belonged to Cambridge who scored 22 straight points. After Santana intercepted a Maaghul pass in the end zone, Huertas threw his first interception of the day giving the Falcons the ball on the Highlander 25. Cambridge drove to the Somerville 7-yard line where Anderson took the ball over to the left end for a touchdown. Anderson then ran up the middle for the conversion making it 15-8.
The second turnover by Somerville was immediately costly when Cambridge’s Essah Chisholm read
the Somerville screen play perfectly, stepped in front of the pass and rambled 35 yards for the touchdown. Santana intercepted the 2–point pass attempt and it was 15-14 Somerville with 4:59 left in the first half.
After forcing the Highlanders to punt, Cambridge returned the ball to the Somerville 35 where Maaghul hit Elijah Booker on a 27 yard pass. The Falcons then took advantage of two Somerville penalties and with the ball on the 2-yard line, Maaghul hit Elijah Scott on a one yard pass just over the goal line. Anderson again scored the two-point conversion on a run making the score 22-15 Cambridge.
With 1:23 left in the first half, Somerville drove the ball down field on two passes on the right sideline to Marin but ended when Cambridge’s Rockeem Robinson intercepted Huertas to end the scoring threat.
In the second half, the Somerville defense forced a Cambridge punt and the Highlander offense went 79 yards, eating nearly eight minutes only to see Chisholm make a shoe-string interception and return the ball the Somerville 45 as the third quarter came to an end. Cambridge took the ball and Anderson ran it down to the 2-yard line where Maaghul hit Rafael Guzman on an almost identical touchdown pass to their last score. The Highlanders thwarted the 2-point conversion and the score was 28-15.
Somerville was finally able to put a scoring drive together, the key plays being a 19 yard pass to Matt George, and a pass reception by Marin that got the ball the Cambridge 11. A middle screen pass to Jupiter got the ball to the 6, and then Huertas found George all alone on the right side to make it 28-22 with the extra point.
The final frenzied minutes of the game came when the Highlanders tried a kick just behind the front line and the ball went out of bounds, earning a penalty that put the ball on the 50. From there, the Somerville defense made a huge stop, stuffing Anderson on a fourth-and-one, taking over the ball on their own 44. Somerville’s hopes were deflated when, on the third play from scrimmage, Huertas fumbled. Anderson’s touchdown run followed and it was 34-22.
Somerville was not done, however, because when Cambridge tried to pass on the two point play following the touchdown, Guerrier intercepted and went the distance giving Somerville 2 points and a breath of life, 34-24. The Falcons were penalized on the return and had to kick from their own 20, giving Somerville great field position. Somerville capitalized when Santana (7 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown) took a Huertas pass over the middle cut to his left and went in for the 30 yard score.
The two point conversion failed and, with the score 34-30 and 49 seconds remaining in the game, Somerville tried an onside kick that Cambridge covered as the clock ticked down to zero, thus ending Somerville’s last hope.
Although Somerville lost to new rival Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Gulla was happy about the new rivalry, and hopeful about future success. “The atmosphere at the game was awesome that’s how Thanksgiving games are supposed to be Cambridge and Somerville are natural backyard rivals. Cambridge will control the coveted Picket Fence trophy for this year only!”
For the future, Coach Gulla is hopeful, considering that he has many starters returning, including key players like Huertas, Marin, George, Abraham and Santana. Also returning will be leading tacklers, Justin Berry and Carl Alphonse, who will be sophomores next year.
The offensive line may need re-tooling because the Highlanders are losing Co-Captain Ryan Conte, Dan Roche and Matt Damasceno to graduation.
In summary, Gulla said, “Our season was not as successful on the field as we had hoped. Our goal is always to win the GBL Championship and until that is accomplished we cannot rest,” but the future is filled with hope.
“We did gain great varsity experience with many underclassmen. The team leaders on both offense and defense will be returning next year.”
~Photos by Terence Clarey