ARLINGTON — When Arlington tailback Frank Roche got to Pierce Field on Friday night, he had no idea he’d be playing quarterback.
But when four-year starter Seth Coiley went down on the first drive of the game, Roche got the nod.
The offense didn’t miss a beat, as Roche led the No. 13 Spy Ponders to a 40-6 win over Woburn to clinch the Middlesex Liberty crown.
Roche had 172 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, a 94-yard kickoff return for a third score, and a touchdown pass in the win.
Roche, a junior who has played some quarterback this season, said he didn’t panic when he had to take over the offense.
“I’ve been playing quarterback all my life, so I knew I could step in and [the transition could] be seamless,” Roche said.
“He’s a coach’s dream,” Arlington coach John Dubzinski said. “What a luxury to have someone who can play tailback, someone who can play quarterback, someone who can play split end, returner. He can do it all.
“He’s our workhorse and he’s a major reason why we’re 6-0.”
The win clinches Arlington’s first playoff appearance since 1995. The Spy Ponders (6-0, 4-0) went 3-8 in each of Dubzinski’s first two seasons at the helm.
“We’ve struggled in the past, this program,” said Roche. “I think we finally turned it around. It’s just awesome, this feeling.”
Coiley suffered a right ankle injury just five minutes into the game. He came up limping after a tough 8-yard run on the Spy Ponders’ first drive that put them inside the Woburn 5-yard line.
Dubzinski doesn’t know the severity of Coiley’s injury and hopes he’ll be back next week against Lexington.
Roche took over and Arlington’s promising drive stalled with a pair of fumbles, leading to a turnover on downs.
Roche got the Spy Ponders on the board on their next drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to senior Zachary Thomas (three catches, 67 yards) to put the home team up, 7-0, with 2:26 to play in the first.
On its next possession, Arlington faced a critical third and 12 at its 3 when Roche hit Thomas on a wheel route down the sideline for 37 yards to extend the drive.
Roche later brought Arlington inside the red zone with a 20-yard run, and Thomas capped the drive with a 35-yard field goal to push the lead to 10-0 with 4:22 left in the half. The drive covered 80 yards in 15 plays, taking 6:38 off the clock.
Arlington’s offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage as the Spy Ponders’ first unit rushed for a combined 296 yards, averaging 8.2 yards per carry.