CHELMSFORD — When Billerica and Chelmsford butt heads on Thanksgiving, offense often takes a back seat.
After losing senior quarterback J.T. Green to a shoulder injury, Billerica used an outstanding effort on defense and special teams to hold off the host Lions, 20-14, securing a win in the 96th installment of the series, and clinching the Merrimack Valley Conference Small title.
“It’s all about being one heartbeat,” said Billerica coach Duane Sigsbury. “It’s about doing everything together — offense, defense, special teams — and we were one heartbeat today. The whole community. We’re MVC champs and we just beat one heck of a team.”
Billerica (10-1, 4-0 MVC Small) opened with a 67-yard touchdown pass from Green to sophomore Djoodny Dorival, and Chelmsford (8-3, 3-1) responded promptly with a 71-yard touchdown run from junior Malakai Everett (10 carries, 121 yards).
After giving up that big play, Billerica hardly allowed an inch while stopping Chelmsford’s next eight drives.
Green hit Gus O’Gara for a 4-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and O’Gara set up a 24-yard field goal by Jason Chaffee with an 80-yard kickoff return.
Chelmsford senior captain Joe Mitri came up with a 56-yard pick-6 to keep his squad within striking distance — trailing 17-14 going into the half.
Green — a 1,000-yard passer and rusher this season — completed 8 of 11 passes for 130 yards in the first half before getting injured. With the senior captain out, the Billerica defense had to be close to perfect, and it held strong with junior captain Mike Murnane producing an interception in the end zone to deny a scoring chance early in the fourth quarter.
“I got injured and the defense stepped up when they needed to,” said Green. “They made huge plays and basically won us this game.”
Chaffee tacked on a 27-yard field goal in the third quarter before Chelmsford finally broke a big play on a 42-yard pass from Kyle Wilder to Manny Marshall. Backed up at its own 5-yard line with 42 seconds to play, Billerica forced four straight incompletions to hang on.
“It doesn’t matter what the records are in this rivalry,” said Sigsbury, although this was the first time since 2005 that Billerica and Chelmsford met with a league title on the line.
“It’s all about Thanksgiving between these two communities. All these kids, this is what they grow up playing Pop Warner dreaming about, playing on this day in front of their fans. And I’m the happiest guy in the world to be coaching Billerica High School.”