Gloucester 34, Westford 28

Fishermen catch fire with Ressel

Three touchdowns
By Evan MacDonald
Globe Correspondent / December 2, 2009

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LYNN - Entering the fourth quarter of its Division 1A semifinal last night, Gloucester trailed by a touchdown and had fumbled the ball away four times. So coach Paul Ingram decided to put the ball in the hands of the most successful runner in Gloucester history.

Conor Ressel carried 28 times for 209 yards and three touchdowns as Gloucester prevailed in roller-coaster fashion, 34-28, over Westford Academy at Manning Field. During the game, Ressel became the Fishermen’s all-time leading rusher.

“It’s just tremendous how he won’t give up, and he wants the ball,’’ Ingram said. “I’ll tell you, you felt like he was running out of gas, and I’d say ‘Conor, do it again,’ and he did it again.’’

The Fishermen (12-0) advanced to their third straight Super Bowl, which will be against Bridgewater-Raynham Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

Coming out of halftime down, 21-14, Gloucester needed only six plays to tie it, Ressel breaking free for a 32-yard touchdown run.

Westford (8-4) answered late in the third quarter. Zach Ingalls barreled in from 1 yard to score his second of three touchdowns and put his team on top, 28-21.

In the fourth, Ressel was too much for the Westford defense. His 3-yard score tied things early in the quarter.

Gloucester got the ball with a little less than six minutes remaining, and its 10-play drive culminated in Ressel’s 5-yard TD with about a minute left.

A missed extra point left the door open for Westford, but Patrick Dugan was sacked on third down, and his last pass fell incomplete, sealing Gloucester’s win.

“I said [at halftime], ‘Don’t panic,’ ’’ Ingram said. “Just hold on to the ball and don’t make mistakes, because I felt like they weren’t really stopping us at all.’’

The teams traded touchdowns in the first half. Ingalls started the scoring when he stripped the ball from Gloucester’s Brandon Cusumano and ran it back 21 yards. Jordan Shairs answered for the Fishermen with a 1-yard TD run.

Ingalls put Westford on top again to begin the second quarter with a 1-yard TD run, but Gloucester quarterback Brett Cahill knotted things again midway through the second by scoring from a yard out.

Westford tacked on another score just before halftime when Dugan found Mark Cornelius in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard TD pass with four seconds left to give the Ghosts a 21-14 lead.

“We didn’t want to be the type of program that just shows up and says, ‘Here’s your championship,’ ’’ Westford coach Rich McKenna said. “We felt we could win this game. We don’t back down from anybody.’’

Ultimately, Ressel was too much. He carried 11 times for 62 yards in the final quarter.

“I felt like when it was five minutes left, we could drive down the field. I really did,’’ Ingram said. “And Conor just had a great game. I tell you, he’s beat up, but boy, he’s a gamer.’’