By Terence Clarey
The two teams that met Friday night were hoping to come away with their first win of the season and in an entertaining seesaw affair, the Somerville High School Highlanders outlasted the Medford High School Mustangs, 35-28 to notch their first victory this year.
Behind the 227 passing yards and the 187 rushing yards of QB Phoenix Huertas, and some inspired rushing by Troy Martini, the Highlanders were able to respond to each Medford offensive drive with one of their own and force a fumble by Medford in the 4th quarter that would be the play that turned the tide in Somerville’s favor.
After receiving the opening kickoff, Somerville’s first drive was stopped on downs. Medford then took the ball straight down the field and, on a drive that continued into the second quarter, they scored a touchdown on a 14-yard swing pass from QB Reggie Thelemaque to Jeff Fargo in the right flat. That made the score 7-0 with the point after kick. This drive seemed to fire up the Highlander offense as they took their next possession straight down the field and scored a touchdown on a Huertas 1-yard keeper to the right. The extra point was missed making the score 7-6 Medford.
Medford responded with another drive of their own, culminating in a 21-yard touchdown run by workhorse Malik McLaren that with the point-after made the score 14-6 Medford. Somerville stormed right back. The key play was an interception by Medford that was nullified by a pass interference call that went against the Mustangs and gave the Highlanders new life.
Huertas then dazzled with a reverse field run from right to left for a 26-yard gain. Anderson Jupiter ran it to the 12 and then Huertas faked an inside handoff and powered around the left end for the score. Somerville then succeeded in converting the 2-point try on a pass from Huertas to James Marin making the score 14-14 as the half wound down.
It seemed the game would be tied going into halftime but as the spectators headed to the concession stand they may have missed Medford’s Xavier Gibson chase the ensuing kickoff down to their own 10-yard line, turnabout and run through Highlander tacklers for a 90 yard touchdown just before half time. A Somerville drive came up short at the Medford 20 as time ran out in the half.
Many returned to their seats surprised to find the score 21-14 in favor of Medford as the second half began. Somerville kicked off to Medford and the defense, led by co-captain Ryan Conte, who played both ways and safety Matt Collins, began to step up as first they forced Medford to punt and gave the ball to Highlander offense. The ball was taken downfield and Huertas lobbed a 19-yard pass to Jonathan Santana in the right end zone corner, who leaped over two defenders and came down with ball for six points. The point after tied the score at 21.
The key play in the game came in the 4th quarter. After Somerville turned the ball over to Medford on downs, Freshman Carl Alphonse’s defense forced Medford to fumble on their own their own 40. Troy Martini then reeled off a 30-yard run and, after a holding penalty backed them up, Huertas hit Matt George on the right side giving the Highlanders the lead 28-21 after the extra point.
With Medford playing catch up, the Mustangs drove down field to tie the game at 28 on a Thelemaque 8-yard keeper. The Highlander response was a drive of their own highlighted by a 20-yard burst by Martini and ending with 10-yard touchdown run by Jupiter, which after the conversion made it 35-28 Somerville.
Jupiter and Martini combined for 200 yards rushing on the night.
“Troy (Martini) had his best game of the season,” Somerville High Head Coach Tony Gulla said of Martini, who had 72 yards on 27 carries and had a touchdown called back after a questionable holding call.
“Troy has improved steadily all year and is following in the family footsteps of great Highlander running backs brother Dave and dad Leo Martini,” Gulla added.
The Highlander defense came up big a third time in the game’s final minutes as they forced Thelemaque to throw an incomplete pass on fourth down handing the ball back to Huertas and the Somerville offense with 27 seconds left. As the Highlanders got into victory formation, Huertas kneeled down and the win was secure.
“A great win for the seniors. They have been battling all season long,” Gulla said. “A lot of teams with 0-8 records could have packed it in, but this group of seniors never quit on themselves or the team.”
The 1-8 Somerville team will end their season on Thanksgiving Day when they host Cambridge Rindge and Latin at Dilboy Field at 10 a.m.