WINCHESTER — Moments after making his way through the handshake line Saturday afternoon, Arlington coach John Dubzinski stood before his team and reminded the Spy Ponders of where they were one year ago.
Dubzinski recalled Arlington’s 1-6 start, having been shut out by Wakefield and Woburn before dropping a gut-wrenching, 22-21 decision at home to Lexington. Back then they were still a young team, he reminded them, still trying to form an identity.
“And next week,” Dubzinski told his team, “we play for the Middlesex League title.”
Quarterback Seth Coiley threw for one touchdown and rushed for another while Frank Roche batted down the potential tying 2-point conversion attempt in the game’s final two minutes as the Spy Ponders (5-0, 3-0 Middlesex Liberty) escaped Winchester with a 28-26 win and their undefeated season intact.
The victory sets up a winner-take-all matchup with Woburn next Friday at Arlington High.
Leading, 28-20, with just less than five minutes remaining, the Spy Ponders turned the ball over when a fumbled handoff was recovered by Winchester’s Stefan Zandsbergs at the Sachem 32-yard line.
Quarterback Michael Grassey led the Sachems to the Arlington 6-yard line, connecting for 67 of his 258 passing yards on the drive. With 1:50 remaining, senior running back Dana Marrocco (15 carries, 36 yards, 3 touchdowns) plunged into the end zone to cut the deficit to 28-26.
Electing to go for 2 points, Grassey took the snap and sprinted right. The junior made a bid for wide receiver John Dooley near the pylon, but Roche closed in and swatted the pass to the turf.
“I’m happy that they ran a play at him because he’s our stopper on defense,” said Dubzinski. “That was a huge, huge play.”
Winchester would have one final chance after an Arlington four-and-out. With 46.2 seconds remaining, Grassey’s heave down the left sideline fell into double coverage and Roche emerged with the clinching interception.
The long ball had been a successful tactic for Grassey early in the game, as Winchester scored on its first play from scrimmage. As outside linebacker Marco Saenz-Grant raced toward Grassey, the junior found wide receiver Stephen Fitzpatrick in stride for a 75-yard touchdown pass.
Arlington answered with 4:35 left in the first. Off the option, Coiley elected to keep the ball for a 15-yard score.
After trading touchdowns midway through the second, Winchester turned the ball over on downs near midfield. Taking over with only 49.5 seconds left in the half, Arlington was able to march 50 yards in less than 45 seconds, highlighted by a 35-yard pass from Coiley to Saenz-Grant.
Roche (123 yards, 2 TDs) capped the drive with a 2-yard scoring run for a 21-14 Arlington lead at the break.