MIDDLEBOROUGH — Following Timmy Crowley was going to be an unenviable task for whoever ascended to the starting quarterback job at Middleborough this season.
After an up-and-down first five starts, junior Jacob Briggs proved Friday night he’s the right man for the job, completing 10 of 12 passes for 150 yards and four touchdowns as the Sachems knocked off previously undefeated Rockland and took sole possession of first place in the South Shore League’s Sullivan Division with a 24-13 victory on Homecoming weekend.
The 6-foot-2-inch Briggs — who accounted for four turnovers in his third career start, a loss to Division 1 Taunton — found four different receivers for touchdown passes in four different quarters in his sixth career start Friday.
“He’s a playmaker,” Middleborough coach Patrick Kingman said.
Briggs often found himself capping drives built on the legs of Nate Tullish and the Sachems’ ground game.
“The run game sets that all up,” Briggs said. “We were running it down their throat all game. When you run it that well, the passes just open up.”
Tullish finished with 145 yards on 28 carries as Middleborough (5-1) controlled the clock and scored on four of its first five possessions against a Bulldogs defense that hadn’t surrendered more than one touchdown in a game this season and was averaging just 5.0 points allowed per game. The Sachems offense entered the game putting up 35.2 points per game.
“Something had to give, right?” Kingman said. “I think we had a pretty good game plan going in that we were going to establish the run and make them pack it in a little bit and once they did that we got the ball on the perimeter and let guys make plays.”
Tullish set the tone early with nine carries on Middleborough’s game-opening 13-play, 74-yard drive that ate up nearly eight minutes and concluded with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Tim Johnson on fourth and 7.
The Sachems’ second possession featured the game’s longest play, a screen pass to Tullish that he broke for 48 yards and a 12-0 lead. (The Sachems went 0 for 4 on two-point conversion attempts.)
Rockland (5-1) found its footing offensively in the second quarter, launching a 10-play, 64-yard drive as Lucas Leander’s 2-yard touchdown dive made it 12-7 heading into halftime.
Middleborough’s defense came up with a key three and out to open the second half, and Briggs hit Justin Mather on another screen for a 19-yard touchdown.
After a 25-yard touchdown pass from PJ Celestino to Brett Armstrong on fourth and 20 gave Rockland some life late in the third quarter, Tullish opened the next drive with six straight runs before Briggs connected with Cam Downey on a 12-yard touchdown pass that sealed the victory.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a tough one,” Briggs said. “They played well, but we just got the job done.”