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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL | LINCOLN-SUDBURY 42, READING 20

For Lincoln-Sudbury, season-ending victory a perfect substitute

Lincoln-Sudbury's Jack Malone (back) is congratulated by teammates Nolan O'Brien (11) and Jessie McCullough (5) after his touchdown reception against Reading.
Lincoln-Sudbury's Jack Malone (back) is congratulated by teammates Nolan O'Brien (11) and Jessie McCullough (5) after his touchdown reception against Reading.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

READING — There was no MIAA trophy presentation, and no talk of a return to Gillette Stadium. But Lincoln-Sudbury left Reading Friday night knowing it had finished a perfect season, even if it was played in April and called Fall II.

Behind quarterback Riley O’Connell’s two rushing and two passing touchdowns, and a dominating defense led by Will Ohler, fifth-ranked Lincoln-Sudbury beat host Reading, 40-20. L-S finished the season 7-0 while No. 7 Reading finished 5-1.

“We absolutely treated [the game] like a [Division 2] North sectional final,” L-S coach Jim Girard said. “That’s how we approached it. It was a really fun game to be a part of.”

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A scoreless first quarter seemed appropriate for two teams with dominating defenses. But that changed quickly in the second quarter, led by the Bucknell-bound Ohler. Reading started its second possession of the second quarter on its 19-yard line. After a James Murphy-to-Patrick Harrigan pass gained 7 yards, disaster struck for the Rockets. It started with a mishandled shotgun snap that Reading recovered at the 9. On the next play the snap was again mishandled and this time Ohler fell on it in the end zone to give L-S a 6-0 lead.

Lincoln-Sudbury quarterback Riley O'Connell struggled with the Reading defense on this play, but still managed to throw for a pair of touchdowns and run for two more.
Lincoln-Sudbury quarterback Riley O'Connell struggled with the Reading defense on this play, but still managed to throw for a pair of touchdowns and run for two more.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

On the Warriors’ next possession, a 47-yard run by Zach Lucchini put the ball at the Reading 10. Two plays later, O’Connell’s short pitch to Nolan O’Brien resulted in a touchdown and it was 14-0. Then it was Ohler’s turn again as he sacked Murphy for a 9-yard loss. Reading punted and on the first play O’Connell (8 for 20 for 96 yards) hit Jack Malone for a 44-yard touchdown pass. A defensive struggle had suddenly turned into a 21-0 L-S lead.

Reading cut the halftime margin to 21-6 thanks to a Murphy-to-Harrigan scoring pass of 15 yards with 41 seconds left. But L-S scored first in the third quarter on O’Connell’s 11-yard run to make it 27-6 and Reading could never recover. O’Connell (9 carries, 91 yards) scored again on a fourth-quarter 1-yard run to make it 34-13 and later O’Brien’s 53-yard scoring run made it 40-20.

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Reading’s two second-half scores came from Murphy touchdown passes of 46-yards to Nick Perez and 2 yards to Lucas Fleming. Murphy finished the season with 16 touchdown passes. But it wasn’t enough for the Rockets.

“There was a lot of emotion after a season like it was with COVID and a lot of ups and downs and being with these guys for a long time,” Girard said. “When it finally ends it’s sad, whether you win or lose. We lose the group tomorrow, it’s over. We thought we had a really good opportunity to make it all the away again. So, there’s certainly some sad feelings related to that but we’re fortunate to have the chance to play this year, get all our games in, and go undefeated. So, it was special.”

Jack Malone's 44-yard touchdown reception was part of a huge offensive outburst for No. 5 Lincoln-Sudbury in its win over seventh-ranked Reading.
Jack Malone's 44-yard touchdown reception was part of a huge offensive outburst for No. 5 Lincoln-Sudbury in its win over seventh-ranked Reading.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe