Eight seconds and 17 yards separated Marshfield from finally getting the dreaded monkey off its back.
Staring a 14th straight loss in the face, the Rams trailed, 12-9, at Plymouth North on Sept. 20 with no timeouts and one final shot at the end zone.
Sophomore quarterback Jack Masterson took the snap and surveyed the field before he rifled a pass to sophomore Dan Dalton at the 5-yard line. Dalton hauled in the pass and barreled his way into the end zone for the winning touchdown as time expired, sending the Rams’ sideline into a frenzy.
Marshfield had won its first game since Nov. 11, 2011.
The Rams are off to a 3-1 start this year and find themselves in a three-way tie for first place in the Atlantic Coast League. Last year, that game would have ended differently for Marshfield and coach Lou Silva.
The Rams went 0-11 a year ago thanks to a multitude of injuries to key contributors and close losses. In its first scrimmage last season, Marshfield lost its top cornerback and receiver for the season with a broken leg. Their potential starting quarterback was sidelined with a shoulder injury to start the season, then returned the third game only to break his leg and end his season.
And in the same game, one of their top running backs, current senior Ben Joyal, broke his leg.
“Things just went downhill from there,” Silva said.
Silva’s team was depleted and overmatched. Players had to play out of position, like junior Slater Haddad, a sophomore last year, who was forced to play defensive tackle even though Silva admitted Haddad wasn’t a defensive player.
But, as Silva noted, “he was a body.”
Despite all the injuries, Marshfield went down to the wire in some games, yet couldn’t break through. The Rams lost four games by 7 points or fewer.
One particular loss stood out — a 7-6 loss at Nauset on Oct. 20.
Marshfield’s kicker suffered a concussion in practice the night before the game and couldn’t play. So when the Rams scored the game’s first touchdown in the second quarter, they were forced to go for 2, which came up short. Nauset went on to tie the game in the fourth quarter and kick the winning PAT.
“If we got just one of those wins, things might have changed,” Silva insisted.
Fortunately for Marshfield, it finally did this fall.
After its improbable win at Plymouth North, the Rams handled Falmouth, 44-6.
And this past Friday, Marshfield trailed Nauset, 21-13, with 1:07 remaining. Nauset had the ball at its 2-yard line when it botched the quarterback-center exchange and forced an errant pass that senior James Marzelli picked off in the end zone to make it 21-19. Masterson ran in the 2-point conversion to tie it.
After Marshfield’s defense forced Nauset into a quick three and out, the Rams drove to the Warriors’ 25 before calling their final timeout with two seconds left.
Silva relayed the final play call to Masterson: “Instant Thunder.”
With three receivers bunched to one side, including Dalton, Masterson heaved a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. Dalton went up and got it. And Marshfield walked off with another heart-pounding win.
“It all stems from the game we had with Plymouth North,” said Silva. “Now the kids have a bounce to their step.”
After all they went through last year, that bounce is making all the difference.
Bus stops here
Monday marks the return of the Globe’s undefeated bus, which debuted on these pages Oct. 29, 1934. Gene Mack, a 1908 graduate of Medford High, created the bus to honor those high school football teams that were undefeated. Today it’s drawn once again by retired Globe promotion design artist Jim Venable.