Old Rochester football nearly pulls off huge comeback against rival Dartmouth
DARTMOUTH — After a tough start to the game, the Old Rochester football team almost pulled off a comeback for the ages on Friday, Sept. 23 as the team faced off against Dartmouth.
But the Bulldogs’ improbable fourth-quarter resurgence was cut short by a timely interception that iced the game and sent the visitors packing with the final score at 21-24.
The game was a true tale of two halves as Dartmouth got off to a quick start, scoring three touchdowns in the first half to lead 21-7 at halftime.
The first to find the endzone was Dartmouth, whose running back turned the corner on an 8-yard outside run that capped their first drive off with seven points.
Though Old Rochester’s offense ran hard in its first possession, the drive stalled out after a holding penalty left them at fourth-and-14 at the Dartmouth 30-yard line.
But the Bulldogs decided to go for it, targeting senior wide receiver Landon Maxwell deep in the end zone for a miraculous score that tied the game at seven apiece.
Dartmouth’s next possession failed to get going, forcing a punt from midfield that the Indians downed inside the 15-yard line.
But on first-and-10, Old Rochester senior quarterback Noah Sommers fumbled the snap which was recovered by the Indians, giving the team the ball back with great field position.
Two plays later, Dartmouth’s running back evaded a tackle and punched in the team’s second touchdown of the night, making the score 14-7.
On the Bulldogs’ next drive, the visitors were able to work the ball downfield with a strong running game and a 30-yard scramble from Sommers who broke six consecutive tackles on the play.
But Old Rochester’s senior running back Jacksen Martin came up short on a fourth-and-one carry, giving Dartmouth the ball back on their own 20-yard line with about three and a half minutes left in the first half.
The home team moved the ball methodically on the drive, breaking some key runs and getting out of bounds to stop the clock after two passes downfield.
On fourth down from the 25, with three seconds left on the clock, Dartmouth ran a hail mary, sending all five wide receivers straight for the endzone. As the defense swarmed around the Dartmouth quarterback, he let loose a last-second pass toward the end zone.
A crowd of players jumped up to catch the ball as it arced over the five-yard line and Dartmouth wide receiver Markus Andrews was the first to touch it, but couldn’t bring it in.
Instead, he tipped it up and into the end zone where another Indians receiver, Graham White, was placed perfectly to grab it out of the air and step into the end zone, giving Dartmouth a 21-7 lead going into halftime.
But Old Rochester would not go down without a fight. The team came back strong after the break, outscoring the Indians 14-3 in the second half.
After two long drives consumed the third quarter with no new scoring, Dartmouth kicked a field goal with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter to extend its lead to 24-7.
On Old Rochester’s next drive, though, the Bulldogs found their groove with Sommers connecting again with Maxwell on a 50-yard pass.
On first-and-goal from the 3-yard line, ORR’s senior running back Walter Rosher punched it in to make the score 24-14.
After forcing a quick punt from the home team, the Bulldogs took over again with six minutes left in the game.
The team went up-tempo in the drive, hurrying back to the line after each play to save time and catch the defense off guard.
The strategy worked quickly as Rosher pulled off a 25-yard run just a few plays into the drive.
After a few more quick runs put the team inside the five-yard line, Sommers hit Martin on a play-action pass for an easy touchdown.
Down by three with four minutes left, Old Rochester tried an onside kick but failed to recover.
But the Bulldog defense held strong, allowing just one first down on the Indians’ ensuing drive.
In the end, the contest came down to a last-minute drive from Old Rochester, whose offense was pinned deep in their own end, down by three points with less than two minutes left in the game.
After a few quick outs, a key unnecessary roughness penalty against Dartmouth, and a 20-yard catch and run on a screen pass, Old Rochester lined up at the Dartmouth 35-yard line with just over a minute remaining.
After the ball was snapped, Sommers pump faked to his left before turning his eyes downfield. With the pass rush bearing down on him, Sommers fired deep down the sideline for Maxwell who was singled up with Dartmouth cornerback Graham White.
As the two went up for the ball, it appeared that the visitors might have taken a late-game lead, but as the dust cleared, it was White who had the ball in his hands.
The last minute interception sealed the victory for the Indians.
After the game, ORR head coach Bryce Guilbeault credited his team for staying confident despite falling behind.
“Our kids are resilient,” he said. “They always believe they can get back in the game.”
Guilbeault attributed the team’s struggles partly to the number of turnovers its offense gave away in the game.
“If you turn it over three or four times, you really hurt your ability to win,” he said.
Asked about his team’s success in the fourth quarter, Guilbeault said that the hurry-up offense is “something we work on,” adding that Dartmouth’s conservative prevent defense gave them “some room to work with.”
With the loss, Old Rochester falls to 1-1 on the season. The team’s next game will be away against New Bedford Voc/Tech (1-1) on Sept. 30 at 6:30 p.m.