NEWTON — The 127th installment of the Brookline-Newton North rivalry, played out on a picturesque, balmy Saturday afternoon in March rather than Thanksgiving morning, did not lack for intensity or theater.
Visiting Brookline registered a pair of safeties in constructing an 11-6 lead into the third quarter. But North responded with a pair of touchdown passes from Jeremiah Poole, a clutch one-handed, diving, fourth-down reception from Dante Atwood to set up Brock Busa’s clinching 3-yard scoring blast, and ultimately, an interception from Clinton Jacobs with 1:27 left on a tipped pass to lock up a hard-earned 20-11 Bay State Conference victory, the first for Newton North first-year coach Nick Capodilupo.
“We just asked the kids to keep fighting, that’s what we had to do last week,” said Capodilupo, an alum (2001 captain) who played for and then coached under his father, Peter, (’02) who led the Tigers from 1984-2014.
“We had a really tough loss [48-0 to Wellesley]. They’ve been committed and they keep doing what we ask them to do by fighting and it’s not easy to do that.
Brookline (0-2) surged to an early 9-0 lead on a safety forced by Jack O’Brien and Enrique Rodas on the Tiger goal line, as well as a 24-yard TD connection between senior captains Oskar Baldwin and Finn Foley in the first minute of the second quarter.
The Warriors tallied the other safety, their lone points of the second half, on an errant snap, in the third quarter.
After a scoreless first quarter, North got on the board when Poole hit Atwood with a 10-yard strike, one play after his 8-yard catch on fourth down was negated by a holding call.
Poole then hooked up with senior Chris Claflin for a 34-yard touchdown with 9:50 to go in the third quarter. And thanks to a pump-fake on a screen, the two connected on the conversion for a 14-11 lead.
Then Poole hit a wide-open Atwood for his one-handed grab to the 3, setting up Busa for the TD.
“Fourth down, got to make a play,” said Atwood. “I saw the ball in the air, wide-open so I knew I had to do whatever it took to catch the ball. It wasn’t quite on me so I had to make a play and came down with it, I don’t know how I caught it.
“I’m very confident at receiver that I can get by anyone and it’s really a confidence thing for me and shoutout to my QB Jerry for getting me the ball. It was a great team win.”
Then Jacobs secured the team win his his pick.
“I don’t know how many times we stopped them on fourth down in our own zone, but it was a lot,” said Capodilupo. “I made a couple bad calls and our kids kept digging us out and doing the things we’ve practiced all week. We’re very proud of them because a lot of teams would have folded and we didn’t.”