The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders spread the love in their season-opening win over the Gardner Wildcats Friday night at Gardner High School. Four different players — Shane Dawson, Corey Romich, Drew Moore, and Joey Orlando — scored a touchdown en route to a 36-13 stomping.
After each team went three and out on their first series, G-D drew first blood with 2:52 to go in the first. Dawson fielded a punt at his own 35 and returned it virtually untouched for a touchdown. Eric Yanchenko (six points, including a 24-yard field goal) tacked on the extra point, and it was 7-0 Crusaders.
After the Crusader defense forced another punt, the offense got its first touchdown of the game with a four-play, 69-yard drive that took just 1:31 off the clock. Two of the plays went for 25+ yards, and it was capped off by a 13-yard rush by Romich.
“We’re just trying to call the right play,” G-D head coach Derek Asadoorian said. “We’re not keeping track of who gets it, but we certainly have some kids who have a nose for the end zone.”
The Crusaders only amassed 234 yards of offense, but that was a product of the short fields their defense and special teams allowed them to work with. The Wildcats were held to just 131 yards, including a mere 47 in the first half.
G-D’s effort was not immaculate. They had ball control issues all night, fumbling four times. They only lost one of them, but it cost them seven points in the second quarter. After Romich fumbled at his own 23, Matthew Seward found Dominic Martins down the right sideline for the score on the very next play.
“That gave them a little life,” Asadoorian said. “It was a little adversity, but we kept battling … [in] the first game, that’s typically a problem. A lot of teams are just getting the timing down when it’s full speed. Scrimmages don’t do you justice. Something we always preach is ball security, and we’ll continue to address it as we always do.”
The Crusaders responded well, with a 28-yard Romich-to-Moore touchdown pass that put the Crusaders up 20-7 midway through the second. Gardner (0-1) would not score again until late in the fourth quarter, and they couldn’t hold on to the ball very well either, losing two of three fumbles.
The Crusaders tacked on two more touchdowns in the second half on runs by Orlando and Dawson. They scored all their touchdowns on plays of 13 yards or more, and could have had one more touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 55-yard option keeper by backup quarterback Michael Tammaro. However, his fake was so good that the referees whistled the play dead, thinking running back Joey Silva had taken the handoff and was stopped at the line of scrimmage.
“The boys have worked hard, and I thought we came out tonight and executed the game plan,” Asadoorian lauded. “We were fortunate to get a couple turnovers … it was a great effort overall, and we took advantage of our opportunities.”
The Crusaders (1-0) will travel to Hudson to take on the Hawks next Friday, September 19, at 7 p.m.