Bridgewater-Raynham’s losses this season have come against No. 3 Duxbury and No. 4 St. John’s Prep, but the Trojans hope to have a different result Friday as they host top-ranked Barnstable. With the Old Colony League championship on the line, both teams look to last year as motivation.
Barnstable beat Bridgewater-Raynham, 26-20, in overtime last season, which helped clinch its first OCL title since 2003. The Red Raiders, despite having a 13-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter, lost in the MIAA semifinals to Lincoln-Sudbury.
That loss has been on the mind of many Barnstable players, especially its 13 returning starters.
“Losing to Lincoln-Sudbury last year fueled the fire for this season,” said Red Raiders coach Chris Whidden. “The kids realized how close they were last year and knew they had so much more coming back.”
One of those key returners for Barnstable’s offense is Nick Peabody, who originally started last season as a wide receiver. When quarterback D.J. Crook was sidelined with a thumb injury, Peabody stepped in and played a significant role in getting the Red Raiders to the playoffs.
This season, the 6-foot-3-inch, 235-pound quarterback leads Division 1A with 23 touchdown passes.
“[Peabody] being a wide receiver has helped him as a quarterback because it gives him a different perspective on the game,” Whidden said. “It makes him that much more humble to realize his success is due to his experience as a wideout.”
Led by five captains, including Peabody, Barnstable is averaging a division-high 36.9 points per game. The Raiders (8-0) have a strong sense of unity since many of them have been playing together since they were much younger. Practices are extremely competitive, with players fighting to win every drill, so that they don’t let each other down on game day.
And to this point, they’ve been unbeaten.
Barnstable’s biggest accomplishment this season was a 13-7 win at Everett, which led the Raiders to the No. 1 ranking in Eastern Massachusetts. “We learned that we can play anybody, beat anybody, and win a tough game when it comes down to it in the fourth quarter,’’ said Whidden. “The belief on our team is that we can win no matter what style of game it’s going to be.”
However, the Raiders are ready for their next obstacle, which is beating the Trojans and getting back to the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Likewise, No. 12 Bridgewater-Raynham is mentally and physically prepared to take on its toughest challenge of the season.
“I think it is a great rivalry and it’s for the league championship, so last year’s loss still sits with our kids, especially the seniors,” said Trojans coach Dan Buron. “They would like to avenge that loss, but that’s easier said than done.”
The Trojans, a run-oriented team, have been sparked by sophomore running back Brandon Gallagher (12 touchdowns), but they plan on getting quarterback Jordan Cohen involved early to mix up the attack.
Captain Kevin Wadsworth has made a difference for Bridgewater-Raynham this season as well, playing both sides of the ball and also serving as the team’s kicker. Aaron Conrad has been a pleasant surprise for the Trojans on defense, anchoring the linebackers.
The senior leadership has been influential for B-R because they stress the need to play as a group and not as individuals.
“I’m proud of the way the kids have responded all year,” Buron said. “Our record probably doesn’t reflect maybe how good we are, but we played a tough schedule that has hopefully prepared us. It’s do or die for us now.”
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In other notable games, fifth-ranked Reading (8-0) takes on Middlesex foe No. 18 Wakefield (7-1) . . . No. 10 Burlington (7-1) will try to clinch a playoff spot as it hosts Stoneham (7-1) Friday