Natick 28, Franklin 26

McCummings, Natick hang on

Red and Blue take it down to wire in win

By Mike Grossi
Globe Correspondent / December 2, 2009

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FRANKLIN - Leading, 28-20, with 1:21 remaining in the game, Natick’s Scott McCummings was poised to run out the clock.

McCummings attempted to run for a first down at the Franklin 36-yard line. However, the senior quarterback was stripped and the ball was recovered by Franklin’s Mike Hoey, giving the Panthers the ball - and hope - at the Panther 33-yard line.

McCummings’s counterpart, Nick Colson calmly dinked and dunked his team down field, positioning the Panthers (11-1) at the Natick 12-yard line with nine seconds remaining.

Colson took the third-down snap and fired a pass toward Joe Gilmore. Gilmore dived and snared the ball in the end zone, bringing the Panthers within 2 points. But on the 2-point conversion attempt, Natick’s Brian Lewis got his hand on a pass intended for Greg Dellorco, knocking it down and sealing the 28-26 victory for the Red and Blue.

“That was a scary game,’’ said McCummings. “Franklin is known for its comebacks but our defense made the plays when it mattered most.’’

Natick (12-0) will play at Gillette Stadium against Reading Saturday for the Division 2 championship.

Natick trailed, 20-14, at the half but came out of the break with a new philosophy. Natick had trouble completing passes in the first half, so the new plan was to have McCummings run the team to the Super Bowl. Ultimately, that was what McCummings did, rushing 130 of his 205 yards in the second half, breaking countless tackles in the process.

“Scott was our offense in the second half, we turned him loose,’’ said coach Tom Lamb.

On the Red and Blue’s first drive of the second half, McCummings led the team to the Panther 11-yard line. C.J. Dawson picked things up from there, rumbling up the middle for the score and a 21-20 lead.

After Franklin missed a field goal, McCummings again led his team to the promised land. His 12-yard scamper, which featured a devastating spin move with 8:30 remaining in the game, put the Red and Blue ahead, 28-20.

Franklin had its way with the Natick defense in the first half. Matt Carini piled up 178 of his 218 rushing yards in the half, including a 68-yard touchdown run that put the Panthers up, 7-0.

“I’ve never been more proud of my team,” said Carini. “We played our hearts out and left it all on the field.”

The Red and Blue bounced right back after the Panthers score, finding the end zone on two straight series.

Natick tied the score, 7-7, on a 17-yard touchdown run on fourth down by McCummings. McCummings picked up 39 rushing yards on the drive.

After a three-and-out by Franklin, Natick scored again. Facing fourth and 8 at the 23-yard line, McCummings called his own number, bowling over the Franklin defenders for a 15-yard gain. On the next play, Brett Farrell took the handoff up the gut and carried a Panther defender into the end zone.

Franklin responded quickly, taking just over three minutes to tie the game. Carini again found the end zone, this time from 21 yards. Carini carried the ball on all seven plays of the 63-yard drive.

After a Jordan Nesmith interception, Franklin was positioned at the Natick 46-yard line. It took the Panthers four plays to score. Colson (190 passing yards) found Brian Garvey on a wide receiver screen and Garvey made defenders miss, scoring from 23 yards and giving Franklin had a 20-14 halftime lead.