WEYMOUTH — “Legit 4.3 speed,” said Walpole coach Barry Greener when asked about the 84-yard kick return by P.J. Hayes that propelled the Rebels to a 48-21 victory over Bay State Conference rival Weymouth.
“It was the turning point in the game,” said Greener. “He’s only played in three games due to injuries, but he’s the fastest player to ever play for Walpole High School.”
Hayes struck after Weymouth quarterback Dave Harrison rushed for his third touchdown, early in the fourth quarter, to give Weymouth a 21-13 lead and what appeared to be control of the game.
Hayes caught the ensuing kickoff and dashed toward the visitor sideline.
The kick return unit formed a wall for Hayes to kick that speed into gear as he raced through the opening.
“It was like the parting of the sea,” said Greener of the return that sliced Walpole’s deficit to 21-19 and sparked a 35-point quarter. “We got two great blocks by the numbers and it just opened up.”
With an energized sideline, the Walpole defense forced a turnover and a three-and-out on Weymouth’s next two possessions.
Set up with favorable field position, Walpole went to the ground for two touchdowns. After Cam Hanley pushed in from the 1-yard line, it took two plays for Walpole’s next touchdown.
Mike Rando, who finished with 120 yards and three touchdowns, bounced an inside handoff up the left sideline for a 52-yard touchdown.
From there, the Rebels were able to pin their ears back defensively and held Weymouth scoreless the rest of the way.
“I thought we wore them down,” said Greener of his offense, which featured a no-huddle. “We tried to make them play as many downs as we could with our NASCAR offense.”
Weymouth jumped to an early lead when Harrison took a quarterback draw 72 yards behind the lead blocking of Matt Long. It took the Rebels until the second quarter to get on the scoreboard, as Walpole quarterback Will Bolster conducted a 16-play drive that was capped by Hanley’s 1-yard plunge.
All is not lost for the Wildcats. Weymouth (8-3, 7-3) will represent the Bay State Conference (Carey Division) and take on Brockton in the playoffs, Tuesday.
As for Walpole (10-1, 9-1), its season comes to a halt. The Rebels finish co-champions of the Herget Division with Natick.