NATICK — For much of the first half, Natick’s high-flying offense was stagnant. King Philip’s defense was getting into the backfield, causing havoc, and not allowing Redhawks quarterback Troy Flutie to get in a groove.
But things changed as time expired in the second quarter, when the second-ranked Redhawks were able to tie the game at 12 heading into the break. The 14-yard touchdown pass from Flutie to Alex Hilger was a sign of things to come.
Behind stellar performances from the duo of Flutie (20-of-32 passing, 345 yards, five TDs; one rushing TD) and Hilger (7 catches, 202 yards, three TDs), Natick got its offense going in the second half, cruising to a 39-26 win over the No. 18 Warriors in a Division 2 South quarterfinal. Natick moves on to face No. 6 Barnstable in the semifinals next weekend.
“We knew they were gonna have a great game plan,” said Natick coach Mark Mortarelli. “They have a great coaching staff, they have a great defense for a reason. It took us a while to figure it out. I’m still not exactly sure what they did. We’ll watch the film. Luckily, we got it rolling in the second half.”
Flutie credited that second-half success to the touchdown leading into halftime. The senior had time to throw and sat back in the pocket, pointed at Hilger, and fired a laser for the score.
“Absolutely,” said Flutie on whether that was the turning point of the game. “I don’t think without that we could have came back and won or kept in there. It would have been tough. Great play by Alex. Just a huge play.”
King Philip’s Joey Johnston fumbled on the first drive of the second half and three plays later Natick was able to take its first lead of the game, 19-12. Flutie found Hilger again, this time for an 18-yard strike over the middle.
The Warriors responded on the ensuing drive when Johnston made up for his fumble with a 12-yard TD run.
On the first play after King Philip tied it, Flutie and Hilger connected for a third time. Flutie fired a long pass down the right sideline, which Hilger reeled in just over the hands of the defender and took 69 yards to make it 25-19.
Flutie added a 3-yard score early in the fourth to up the lead to 32-19. King Philip made it a one-score game on the next drive when John Dillon found Kyle Loewen for an 18-yard touchdown.
But Natick was relentless and put the game away when Flutie fired his final touchdown pass of the night, a 19-yarder to Andrew Boynton with 1:54 to go.