FOXBOROUGH — The jubilation was perhaps epitomized by Dartmouth linebacker Nathan DeMello.
A knee injury knocked him out in the fourth quarter, but it did not keep him from celebrating a 26-21 victory and Dartmouth’s second consecutive Division 3 Super Bowl title.
Arm in arm with teammates, who carried the senior around during the celebration, the cheers from the Dartmouth faithful at Gillette Stadium may have dulled his pain.
Melrose (12-1) entered with hopes of erasing memories of Chris Martin, who ran all over the Red Raiders defense for 215 yards on the same stage a year ago.
Martin dashed those hopes, racking up 205 all-purpose yards and three rushing touchdowns.
“Pound for pound, he is the toughest kid I have ever coached,” Dartmouth coach Rick White said. “He’s like a heavyweight boxer, he just refuses to go down until the game is over.”
The 5-foot-7-inch, 157-pound senior picked up where he left off from last year’s title game, taking the fourth snap of the game 36 yards on a sweep to put the Indians (10-2) on the board.
“The game plan was to score and get on top quick,” said Martin, who finished with 142 rushing yards on 34 carries. “We knew they had a good defense. To get on the board fast was good.”
But Melrose hunkered down, stuffing Martin at the goal line on fourth down to start the second quarter. The Red Raiders got another goal-line stop on Dartmouth’s following possession, and the Indians were unable to handle the snap on a field goal try.
“We didn’t finish when we got down in the red zone, it was very disappointing,” White said.
Dartmouth coach Richard White on his team’s victory
Melrose took advantage of the botched field goal with a 93-yard drive on 13 plays, capped off by a 5-yard Mike Pedrini touchdown reception from Julian Nyland to take a 7-6 lead at halftime.
Pedrini and Nyland hooked up again in the third quarter to give Melrose a 14-6 lead. This time, Pedrini took the snap in the Wildcat formation, tucked the ball as if he was going to run, then heaved a pass to Nyland, who was wide open for an 87-yard touchdown.
Dartmouth (11-2) responded with a 20-point run sparked by 12-yard touchdown pass from Cole Jacobsen to Jack Sullivan on the ensuing drive to cut the deficit to 14-12.
The following kickoff turned the game on its head.
Matt Foley forced a fumble and fell on it to give Dartmouth possession inside the red zone. Martin eventually plunged in from the 1 to give Dartmouth a 20-14 lead in the fourth quarter.
“That was the momentum-changer in the game,” White said. “We score, then get that [fumble], and then we score again. A huge play.”
The Dartmouth defense, which held Melrose’s three-headed rushing attack of Pedrini, Nyland and Jay Tyler to 49 yards, forced a punt to set up the clinching score.
After Jacobsen scampered 66 yards to set up the Indians inside the 5-yard line, Martin took care of the rest, diving in for another 1-yard score, his 28th TD of the season.
Nyland got Melrose within a score when he hit Steven Abbott with a 12-yard TD pass to make it 26-21, but Matthew Craig fell on the onside kick to clinch Dartmouth’s second set of back-to-back titles. The Indians beat Foxboro in 1983 and 1984.
|D||Chris Martin 36-yard run (kick failed)|
|M||Mike Pedrini 5-yard pass from Julian Nyland (Mike Cusolito kick)|
|M||Julian Nyland 87-yard pass from Mike Pedrini (Mike Cusolito kick)|
|D||Jack Sullivan 12-yard pass from Cole Jacobsen (pass failed)|
|D||Chris Martin 1-yard run (Jack Sullivan pass from Cole Jacobsen)|
|D||Chris Martin 1-yard run (pass failed)|
|M||Steven Abbott 12-yard pass from Julian Nyland (Mike Cusolito kick)|