The situation was pretty dire.
With 40 seconds remaining in Friday’s showdown for the Atlantic Coast League title, Nauset punched in a 2-yard run, pushing ahead of host Plymouth South, 12-7.
On the sideline, South coach Scott Fry dropped his head, comtemplating his next move.
His play call was a game changer.
On a third down and 6 with 20 seconds left, South senior quarterback Jason Lamb connected on a hook route to Robert Moss, who flipped the ball to Dylan Oxsen . And then the junior back simply did what he does best: He made defenders miss. Oxsen found a seam and ran 62 yards to the end zone, untouched, finishing off the hook-and-ladder play for a thrilling 13-12 victory.
The crowd erupted into cheers, celebrating the Panthers’ first ACL crown.
Fans stormed the field. Tears flowed down the faces of players and parents alike. A few faces wore grins from ear to ear, while others shook their heads in disbelief after an astounding comeback against an undefeated team.
Oxsen has taken a lead role all season for the Panthers (7-3 overall, 5-0 ACL). After scoring both touchdowns on Friday, he now has a school-record 30 for the season, which leads Eastern Massachusetts in all divisions.
But in the final minute, he said, “I’m not going to lie, I thought the game was over.”
Fry and a few of the Panther players believed South could win if they got the ball to Oxsen without him being the focal point of the Nauset defense.
“We were trying to do anything we could to try to keep them off balance, and they did a phenomenal job defensively of keying on him,” said Fry.
“We thought the quarterback, Jason Lamb, would be a big factor in this game and he was, so we tried to use that to our advantage by sending Oxsen one way and try and get Jason the ball the other way.”
Oxsen has always been passionate for the game, starting in the first grade, when he suited up for the Plymouth South Youth Jaguars.
He certainly caught the eye of Fry when he scored 36 touchdowns on the freshman team.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound back stays dedicated to his offseason workouts with Michael Harrington , a sports conditioning coach. And if he wasn’t training with Harrington, he was at the gym regularly.
Oxsen is described by his teammates as dedicated and hard-working.
“Kid works harder than anyone I know,” said senior captain Connor Rossi .
“I know he’s always there for everyone on the team. He always wants to push harder. There’s no finish line for that kid. He just has to keep going and he never stops. Having him around us makes us want to work as hard as him.”
The last-second win over Nauset was quite an 18th birthday present for Rossi.
“Normally in a game like that I start breaking down and think, ‘Wow, we lost,’ but for some reason this time I went to the sideline and said, ‘We can’t lose this game,’ ” recalled Rossi. “There was something in me saying we needed to win, and we finally pulled it off in the end.”
After Rossi and fellow senior captains Lamb, Dillan Halpin , and Derek Anderson graduate, Oxsen will take on an even greater role as a leader next season.
“It will motivate me because I’m always going to want to do better next year,” said Oxsen of his successful regular season.
“I’ve scored 30 touchdowns so far this season, so I’m going to try to do better next year. We won the ACL. Some of the leagues are changing next year, so if I can do that again next year hopefully, and if we don’t win the Super Bowl game, that will be my goal for next year.”
This winter, the three-sport athlete will be back on the wrestling mat for South before playing lacrosse in the spring. He hopes to play football at the collegiate level and will attend camps next summer to improve his stock.
He’s been a key cog in a program that has made a dramatic turnaround from last year’s 2-9 (1-5 ACL) finish.
“I’m so happy not just for the football team, but for the entire school,” said Fry.
“We’ve come such a long way from where we couldn’t win football games, and now we have a league title and an opportunity to play in the playoffs. It’s a dream come true for these kids.”
Plymouth South will take on rival Plymouth North Thanksgiving Day (3-6) before playing the Bay State Herget champ, either Natick or Walpole, in the first round of the Division 2A playoffs.
More title matches
■ Weymouth clinched the Bay State Carey title in a 25-15 win over Framingham, while the Brockton Boxers took the Big Three title with a 35-12 defeat of New Bedford. The two division winners will play each other in the first round of Division 1 playoffs.
■ Patriot Keenan champ Duxbury (10-0), riding a 36-game winning streak, will face Hockomock Kelley-Rex champ Mansfield in Division 2 playoffs. Mansfield clinched the Hockomock title with a 28-21 win over Franklin.
■ Sharon, which beat Foxborough, 14-7, to take the Hockomock Davenport title, matchs up against Patriot Fisher champ Pembroke in the Division 3 playoffs.
■ Unbeaten Abington, which secured the South Shore League title with a 22-16 victory over East Bridgewater, takes on Tri-Valley Small title holder Millis/Hopedale in the Division 4 playoffs.
Coryn Doncaster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.