LYNN — For the third week in a row, the Gloucester football team rallied from a first-quarter deficit to win on the road. For the second week in a row, the Classical football team lost a heartbreaker at the last minute.
The Fishermen scored a touchdown with nine seconds left in the game Friday night, earning a 26-22 win over the Rams at Manning Field.
“It’s always a classic battle with Classical,” said Gloucester coach Tony Zerilli. “They’re a really good team and I think we’re so evenly-matched. This one could’ve gone either way tonight.”
Gloucester’s star of the night was senior running back Marc Smith, who had 11 rushes for 65 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner. Not only that, but Smith also called the game-winning play.
“(Smith) called it, he said, ‘run this play,’ and (split end) Nick Fila said, ‘run it at me, I’ll block,'” Zerilli said. “And when varsity players say something like that, you listen, and they made it happen out there.”
Classical got solid performances from senior quarterback Keith Ridley (7-for-11, 127 yards, two touchdowns), senior running back Chase Buono (13 rushes, 125 yards, one touchdown), senior receiver Nashaun Butler (5 receptions, 82 yards, one touchdown) and junior receiver Maurice Sequeira (1 reception, 22 yards, one touchdown).
“It’s a tough way to lose, that’s for sure,” said Classical coach Brian Vaughan. “(Gloucester) made some big plays out there at the end. All you can do is go back to the lab, try to fix it and get better for next week.”
Classical started the game how it wanted to, scoring a touchdown on the first play when Buono took an inside handoff 72 yards to the end zone.
Gloucester managed to respond just before the first quarter ended, when Smith rumbled in for an 18-yard touchdown run to make it 8-6 Classical.
The second quarter was fairly uneventful, with each team running long drives that came up empty. But the Rams were able to extend their lead with just 44 seconds left in the first half when Ridley found Butler deep for a 64-yard touchdown pass, sending Classical into the break with a 16-6 lead.
The Fishermen didn’t quit. After taking the kickoff to start the second half, Gloucester went on an 11-play, 69-yard drive that culminated in a 15-yard touchdown run from senior Ryan Argentino. The Fishermen then forced Classical into a three-and-out and got the ball right back, running another long drive that ate up the rest of the clock in the third quarter and ended in another touchdown, this time a 24-yard run by Smith, to give Gloucester the lead 18-16.
The Rams responded with a scoring drive of their own, orchestrating an eight-play drive that went 79 yards and was capped by a 22-yard touchdown pass from Ridley to Sequeira to take back the lead 22-18.
But a few minutes later, when Classical was attempting to hold onto the ball and ice the game, Ridley threw an interception to give Gloucester the ball back with 2:56 to go. That was all the time the Fishermen needed, as they went on a long drive that included a 37-yard run by senior Jan Pena Ortiz, a 28-yard pass from senior James Nelson to Smith and finally, a 9-yard touchdown run by Smith to give Gloucester a 26-22 lead with just nine seconds left.
Classical tried to make something happen on the kick return, but Gloucester made the final stop for the win.
Gloucester (4-0) hosts Saugus next Friday night. Classical (2-2) hosts Danvers next Friday night.