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44TH SHRINERS FOOTBALL CLASSIC

Given the option, Dylan Gordon passes South All-Stars to a thrilling win in return of Shriners Football Classic

WALTHAM — Dylan Gordon was carrying the load all night for the South All-Stars in the 44th Shriners Football Classic at Bentley University.

The former Foxborough star totaled 95 yards on 17 carries. And the North All-Stars seemed to know the ball would be in his hands on a critical third-and-goal call midway through the fourth quarter.

So, during a timeout, South coach Jim Artz asked Gordon if he could throw. The tailback said, “Honestly, no” but the staff called for a halfback pass anyway.

Gordon then delivered an 8-yard strike to Taunton grad Trent Santos in the back of the end zone for what stood up as the winner in a 20-17 thriller, the exclamation point to a game that was played for the first time since 2019.

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“I don’t know how I did that,” said Gordon, the game’s offensive MVP, who will be a freshman at Bentley this fall.

“For a group of guys that don’t know each other, we just meshed together so well. The coaches did a great job with us this week and I was ready for whatever they were going to throw at me.

The North All-Stars struck early when Everett senior JC Clerveaux (who is headed to Williston Northampton for a post-graduate year) broke an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.

Billerica’s Shaan Rana drilled a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter and North took a 10-0 lead into the break. At halftime, the Shriners honored Masconomet’s Oliver Hanson, a lineman playing in the game who received emergency treatment at the Shriners Hospital as an infant.

South rallied behind a slew of Hockomock League All-Stars. Franklin’s Jared Arone hit Santos for a 43-yard pass to set up a 2-yard touchdown by Tyler DeMattio (North Attleborough), and King Philip’s Crawford Cantave delivered a 55-yard interception to set up another DeMattio score from 2 yards out.

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North jockeyed ahead when North Andover’s Jack O’Connell hit Wayland’s Adam Goodfellow for a 42-yard touchdown, then South rode Gordon and Rockland’s P.J. Celestino on a long, clock-killing drive to set up the go-ahead score.

“The Hockomock League showed why, I believe, we’re the best league in the state,” Gordon said.

While the North All-Stars were stopped on fourth down, they got one more chance to tie or take the lead, and O’Connell put his team into scoring position. But the South’s loaded defensive line pressured Rana’s kick and forced a miss from 41 yards out to seal the win.

“I thought the kids came out and executed some high-level stuff,” North coach Brian Aylward said. “It’s a good way to bring the game back and hopefully there were a lot of young kids here who are in the mix to potentially qualify for this game and take it seriously when it’s their turn. It’s a privilege to be part of it, for me as a coach and I think the kids got the same message.”

Indeed, Gordon and his teammates recognized the importance of raising funds and awareness for the Aleppo Shriners’ Transportation Fund, which assists young burn victims with the costs of flights to Boston for potentially life-changing care.

“We’ve heard the last few weeks what this game is really about and football is second,” Gordon said. “This is all about charity and the Shriners and those burn victims. I think we put on a show today and I know the money we raised is going to a good cause.”

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