ATTLEBORO — Freshmen seldom have had an impact for North Attleborough in its annual Thanksgiving Day rivalry against Attleboro.
Not Thursday morning.
In his first action at quarterback, Tyler DeMattio directed the Rocketeers to a 20-7 victory over host Attleboro in the 99th Thanksgiving Day meeting.
DeMattio ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on six carries and threw his first varsity pass — an 86-yard touchdown strike to Ryan Gaumond.
“That decision [to make DeMattio the quarterback] was made last week,” North Attleborough coach Don Johnson said. “He practiced with us for a week. That’s a heck of an accomplishment for a freshman to practice only for a week.”
What made DeMattio’s performance even more noteworthy? He didn’t play until the second half.
“We weren’t sure he was ready from the start,” Johnson said. “We knew we were going to play him at some point. We got him warmed up at halftime and got him ready to go.”
DeMattio had been the varsity’s kicker and the freshman team quarterback. But injuries to starting quarterback Nick Raneri and backup Matt Penta (sidelined late in the first half) forced Johnson’s hand.
Attleboro (4-7) grabbed a 7-0 lead when Matt Cote (24 carries, 116 yards) capped an 11-play, 89-yard drive with a burst in from the 2.
The Rocketeers (8-3) tied it on their first possession of the second half when DeMattio lofted the 86-yard TD pass to Gaumond.
“That was the momentum-changer,” Johnson said.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Brendan McHugh intercepted a Jason Weir pass, setting up a 7-yard scoring run by DeMattio for a 14-7 lead.
After an Attleboro drive stalled on North’s 9, DeMattio dashed 90 yards for a score.
“He’s had a great year as a freshman,” Johnson said. “We’ve been watching him all year and felt he was our next best available quarterback.”