NATICK - Walpole had last night's game circled on its calendar since the beginning of the season. To get to the playoffs, the Rebels knew they would have to beat Natick.
That is exactly what they did.
Ryan Izzo ran for 115 of his 179 yards in the second half for Walpole, which ground out a 21-9 win, clinched first place in the Bay State Herget, and earned a playoff berth for the second straight year.
"This is what you work for in August," said Walpole coach Danny Villa. "You work for this game and to play like we did today."
Walpole deflated Natick and its multitude of fans with a drive that ate 6 minutes 25 seconds of fourth-quarter clock.
"I think that last drive was classic," said Villa. "You couldn't script it any better."
Starting at its 20, the Rebels ran down the throat of the Natick defense. They converted on two third downs and on fourth and goal from the 4. Izzo was the driving force, gaining 71 yards on the ground.
"We needed to resort to the run to kill time in the second half," said Izzo.
Villa was tempted to kick a field goal.
"It was a thought until Ryan said, 'Just give me the ball,' " said Villa.
Izzo scored on a sweep around left tackle.
Natick pulled ahead of Walpole with five minutes remaining in the third. The Red and Blue methodically marched 71 yards with 50 coming on the ground. The Walpole defense stiffened and forced Natick to attempt a 30-yard field goal. Tim DeMaio's kick sailed through the uprights and the Red and Blue owned a 9-7 lead.
Natick wouldn't hold that lead for long. Aided by a long kick return by Vinnie Lee, Walpole started at its 48.
Izzo chewed up 47 yards on the ground on the drive, including a 23-yarder during which he ran over a Natick player. Izzo scored on a 7-yard run up the middle that gave the Rebels a 14-9 lead.
Natick's star player, quarterback Scott McCummings, was hobbled in the second half by an ankle injury. He was unable to take the field after Walpole took the 14-9 lead.
Walpole reached the end zone first, with a little more than two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Leo Ajemian intercepted a McCummings pass and returned it into the end zone. However, a block in the back moved Walpole back to the Natick 15. On third and 7 at the 12, Izzo took a sweep and ran around the left guard for a 7-0 lead.
Natick responded with one minute remaining in the half. After an interception by Brian Lewis, the Red and Blue had prime field position. A 10-yard pass from McCummings to Brett Flutie on third and 8 kept the drive alive.
Two plays later, McCummings snuck into the end zone for a touchdown. The PAT was missed and Walpole led, 7-6, at the half.