What if I told you that two undefeated teams were battling for the Middlesex Liberty division title Friday night when one of the teams four-year starter at quarterback got injured on the team’s opening drive.
You’d assume that that team lost, right?
Enter Frank Roche.
The Arlington junior running back turned quarterback would throw for 73 yards and a touchdown, run for another 171 yards and two touchdowns and add a 94-yard kick-return touchdown for good measure, as the Spy Ponders would go on to defeat Woburn 40-6 at home to clinch their first playoff berth since 1995.
“Basically, we just put the ball in Roche’s hands and let him make plays,” third-year Arlington coach John Dubzinski said after the game.
Did I mention Roche also played safety on a defense that held Woburn’s 24.7 point-per-game offense coming into the game to 6 points and only allowed first downs on one of Woburn’s starters’ drives? (Both teams put in backups after Roche’s kick-return TD made it 40-6 with 6:42 remaining.)
After a Woburn four-and-out to open the game, Arlington senior quarterback Seth Coiley led the Spy Ponders 44 yards down to the 2-yard line but injured his right ankle on his final 8-yard run.
Arlington would fail to punch it in from the 2 on its next two plays, but after a quick Woburn punt, Roche connected with senior wide receiver Zachary Thomas on a 22-yard touchdown pass (his first throw of the game) with 2:26 left in the first quarter to make it 7-0.
Thomas, who was a perfect 5-5 on extra points, added a 34-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, giving Arlington a 10-0 halftime lead.
Arlington got the ball to open the second half, and Roche capped off a 55-yard drive with a 25-yard touchdown run. After another Woburn three-and-out and punt, Arlington drove 80 yards, with senior fullback Lucas Hanley scoring on a 1-yard run to put the Spy Ponders up 24-0 early in the fourth quarter.
With Roche moved to quarterback, junior Lukas Stavropoulous filled in at running back (Arlington’s normal backup running back Patrick Conroy missed the game with an injury). Stavropoulous, who had a number of tough runs inside the tackles, finished the game with 17 carries for 61 yards.
On Woburn’s next drive, Arlington linebacker Marco Saenz-Grant sacked quarterback Robert Voci for a 10-yard loss and safety to make it 26-0.
After the safety kickoff, three plays later, Roche scored from 48 yards out, as the Spy Ponders went up 33-0 with 8:01 remaining in the game.
Two plays later, Woburn’s junior running back, Chris Jewett, finally answered Arlington’s offensive attack with a 51-yard touchdown run. However, Roche took the ensuing kickoff back 94 yards to make the final 40-6 (Woburn botched the snap on the extra-point attempt).
Jewett led Tanner rushers with four carries for 65 yards. Voci added 32 yards on 12 carries and threw for 34 yards on 3-7 passing.
Woburn junior Marvin Jean was the other key member of Woburn’s offense. He had four carries for 12 yards and one catch for 27.
Arlington’s defense held Woburn to 93 yards in the first half and Woburn starters to 144 yards overall.
Arlington was 3-8 in each of Dubzinski’s first two seasons. The Spy Ponders only have one other winning season in the last 15 years.
“When I came here, we only had one guy that could bench 200 pounds,” Dubzinski said. “Now, we have about 30.”
Arlington (6-0) hosts Lexington (1-4) at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25. Woburn (5-1) will be at Reading (3-1) at 7 p.m. that Friday.
1st Quarter, 2:26 left, Arlington QB Frank Roche to WR Zachary Thomas, 22-yard TD pass (Arlington 7, Woburn 0)
2nd Quarter, 4:22 left, Arlington K Zachary Thomas, 34-yard FG (Arlington 10, Woburn 0)
3rd Quarter, 6:37 left, Arlington QB Frank Roche, 25-yard TD run (Arlington 17, Woburn 0)
4th Quarter, 10:11 left, Arlington FB Lucas Hanley, 1-yard TD run (Arlington 24, Woburn 0)
4th Quarter, 9:46 left, Arlington LB Marco Saenz-Grant sacks Woburn QB Robert Voci for safety (Arlington 26, Woburn 0)
4th Quarter, 8:01 left, Arlington QB Frank Roche, 48-yard TD run (Arlington 33, Woburn 0)
4th Quarter, 7:02 left, Woburn RB Chris Jewett, 51-yard TD run (Arlington 33, Woburn 6)
4th Quarter, 6:42 left, Arlington QB Frank Roche, 94-yard kick-return TD (Arlington 40, Woburn 6)