A mere three plays into the game, two-way standout Mike Rando was on the sideline with a high ankle sprain. And through the first quarter Friday night against visiting Wellesley, the explosive Walpole High offense had not put any points on the board.
But the Rebels kicked into gear in the second quarter when junior quarterback Will Bolster connected with Chris Collins , his 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior tight end on a 21-yard scoring pass. Cam Hanley then punched in a 5-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead.
In the third quarter, unbeaten Walpole blitzed the Raiders with 28 unanswered points on the way to a 49-0 Bay State Conference win, with Hanley completing the evening with three touchdowns.
The Rebels have been challenged once in their 6-0 start, a 27-21 win over Framingham in Week 2, but Friday’s matchup against visiting Needham (5-1) will be a huge test. The Rockets advanced to the Division 1 Super Bowl last season. Walpole fell to Dennis-Yarmouth, 46-20, in the first round of the EMass. Division 2 playoffs.
“Everybody’s hungry,” said Walpole senior captain Rick Ordway, a defensive lineman. “We had a bad taste in our mouth after last year’s loss. We’re using it as motivation to go as far as we can every single game.”
Walpole shares the Bay State Herget lead with Natick. Needham (5-1 overall) shares the Bay State Carey lead with Framingham and Weymouth at 4-1.
The Rando loss undoubtedly hurts the Rebels, but Walpole coach Barry Greener has faith in his team’s depth. Players are rotated in and out of the lineup in every game.
“We try to get as many kids as sweaty and dirty as we can by the end of each game,” said Greener, in his fourth season as head coach. His affiliation with the program, though, dates back to the early ’70s when he was first hired as an assistant by John Lee. “They’re all good and they all can play.”
The injury, though, is a bit of déjà vu. Hanley tore his medial collateral ligament in the second game last season; Rando went down in Week 5 against Wellesley with the same injury. Rando is well prepared to lead from the sideline for the time being (he is aiming to return for the showdown against Natick on Nov. 9).
The team’s captains: Rando, Hanley, Ordway, and linebacker Steve Thulin , are described by Greener as the heart and soul of the team, on and off the field, selected for their determination, leadership qualities, and athleticism.
Other players, however, are more than ready to step up.
Connor Moriarty , a junior outside linebacker, picked up some of Rando’s carries in the backfield against Wellesley.
“I feel completely confident in [Moriarty], Cam, and Thulin running the ball,” said Rando. “Moriarty is more than capable of stepping in and making a huge impact at running back.”
The 6-3 Bolster, in his first season as the starting QB, is also making a huge impact. A wide receiver as a freshman and at the start of last season, he was shifted to quarterback for the junior varsity team.
He has thrown 10 touchdown passes in the first six games, and completed 10 passes against Wellesley for 240 yards.
“Next year he should be phenomenal,” said Greener.
Collins (4 touchdown catches), a young Gronkowski according to Greener, and his fellow seniors are determined to make their mark as seniors. Rando is attracting the interest of a number of NESCAC schools, including Amherst, Tufts, and Williams, for his football and baseball prowess.
But the Rebels have a number of underclassmen playing key roles.
“We have some good young players,” said Greener. “We’ve got the Moriarty kid, number nine, Kyle Raftery, number 35, is a tough, tough kid, Andrew Papirio, 43. They’re all going to step in as the Randos and the Cam Hanleys graduate. That’s the way the system works and they’re good. They’re good players, very good players.”
But focus is on the next game.
“Next week we got to go into Needham and just play our A-game and just see what happens,” said Greener. “Needham will match us man for man; Natick, man for man. We’re going to be in for a bunch of wars down the road; Weymouth on Thanksgiving — my old home high school — that’s going to be a war. They’re good. They’re real good.”
Duxbury’s tough road
Duxbury is still unbeaten. But the Dragons had to work for their 32d straight win, a 14-6 victory over Pembroke.
Quarterback Sean McCarthy ran for one touchdown (40 yards) and threw for another (28 yards), but Duxbury will need to be at its best in Friday’s Patriot League Keenan matchup against 3-3 Quincy.
Senior running back Jon Hurvitz (illness) is questionable for a return to the field Friday. But the two McCarthys, Sean and linebacker Marshall , continue to play well.
“We just kind of need that from Sean all the time,” said head football coach Dave Maimaron. “I can’t say enough about how Marshall’s been playing. He does a tremendous job every week. Quincy is very good and hopefully we’ll get a couple guys back to be able to make some plays. Our focus is to control our own destiny and win this week. We control our destiny. We’re not looking for help. Our next goal as a team is to win.”
On Oct. 26, all 373 MIAA schools will vote at Assabet Regional in Marlborough to decide whether there will be a two-year pilot program for a new statewide football playoff system that would cut the number of Super Bowls from 19 to six. Under the new system, more schools would make the postseason.