MARSHFIELD – One of the most consistent scorers on the undefeated Duxbury High football team was on the fairway this time last year.
Now he’s heading to Gillette Stadium for next week’s state championship with the Patriot League Keenan Division trophy.
“This is a really special event,” said Duxbury senior kicker Nathan Elliott. “We had a really good golf team (and) I had to sacrifice trips to the states with them (to play football this year). I’m grateful to be doing this here.”
More:Keep track of all South Shore High School Thanksgiving results and highlights right here.
Elliot scored important fourth-quarter field goals as Duxbury beat Marshfield 26–7 in the 37th annual Thanksgiving game. The first field goal came from 25 yards, the second from 29 yards, giving the Dragons (11-0) a three-point lead over the Rams (7-4).
How Elliot became a player on one of the best South Shore football teams is far from typical.
“Our kicker was senior last year so we needed a new kicker. I have a football background all my life. So I put the work in for this summer, fall and gave them a kicker,” Elliott said.
“Elliot spent three years on the golf team and never played football,” said Duxbury quarterback Matt Festa, who battled illness to play in the game. “I actually saw him kick this summer and told him he should go.”
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With the state championship game due next week, this celebratory rivalry may not have been the highest on Duxbury’s priority list, but the Dragons still wanted to win.
“I’m just happy that these guys showed up today and gave it their all, knowing they’re going to have another game next week,” said Duxbury coach Matt Landolfi. “And it took a lot of resilience from the kids to put that aside and focus on today. I’m just happy for them.”
The first-place Dragons will face No. 2 Grafton in the Division. 4 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Friday, December 2 at 8:00 pm.
At the moment, the league championship trophy – Duxbury has won 14 consecutive Keenan crowns – is fine.
“It means a lot to the entire community,” Festa said. “We have a long winning streak in the league championship so we don’t want to give up.”
Festa threw for 164 yards and touched down twice against Marshfield. He has up to 34 TD passes in a season as well as his 12 quick runs.
Festa wasn’t 100 percent, but brushed off the illness, saying, “It’s the flu, not a broken leg, so I can still play.”
“He is an amazing leader,” Landolfi enthused. At home he had the flu, but he couldn’t stop playing. He’s just the leader of the team, he has the edge and the kids follow him.”
Festa’s first touchdown throw came in the second quarter when a 26-yard screen pass to junior Adam Barr resulted in a 13-0 lead. Junior Alex Barlow gave the Dragons a 6-0 lead with a 2-yard run down center.
Duxbury’s third and final touchdown came just after half time on a methodical 87-yard drive. Festa ended that march with a 23-yard assist to senior Parker Villarin to make it 20-7.
Defensively, the Dragons weren’t fooling around either, as senior captain Brendan Bonner, the defensive back, had a couple of interceptions.
“He is an absolute footballer,” Landolfi said. “This is his fourth pick in two weeks in the big games. It doesn’t surprise me. Great kid and we will miss him next year.”
Bonner said it was his ability to remain disciplined and patient on a secondary level that led to his success.
“At first, he was climbing around and I was like, ‘Should I rush (QB) or should I stay?’,” Bonner said. “I stayed and I stayed and (I) was able to jump in front of the pass and take it away.
“I just threw the second one back, followed the game plan, and the ball found me,” Bonner continued.
The Rams’ lone goal came in the second quarter when senior quarterback Anthony Molander hit Jack Marini with an 8-yard TD pass to cut Duxbury’s lead to 13–7.
As for the rest of the Dragons’ defense, it was their ability to put pressure on the pocket that created opportunities.
“Everyone stepped up this year,” Festa said. “Henry Bicknell made some important plays and the whole offensive line played amazingly. Colin Quinlan played a big role today. One of our seniors didn’t play today so (Quinlan) stepped in and did a great job.”
As for Marshfield, Thanksgiving ended the rollercoaster season. Starting the season 0-2, the Rams are used to tough competition with their backs against the wall.
“I told these guys last night and today about the trip,” Marshfield coach Chris Aroka said. “Think about where we started and where we ended up, we got a lot better as the year progressed. They continued to develop and did not give up. We’ve had a pretty good year considering everything we’ve been through at the beginning of the year.”
As for Duxbury, their season continues with the last game. Even though Elliot has only been on the football team for one year, he’s getting it right.
“The coach and teammates were amazing,” Elliot said. “They are like family to me. I really liked it”.