NATICK – What can make a complete team effort sweeter? Beat a rival to earn your first trip to a sectional final in the process.
Top-seeded Natick handled Bay State Conference rival Wellesley, 30-0, in Friday’s Division 2 South semifinal, setting up a date with Mansfield next weekend for the right to play in the D2 Super Bowl.
“It feels so much sweeter,” said Natick senior captain Felix Ferrucci. “It’s always a big rivalry with Wellesley, no matter what sport, and after a close 14-13 win [in the regular season], we were both really hungry. We just wanted it more tonight.”
As Natick’s free safety and defensive leader, Ferrucci set the tone early for a dominant performance in which the Redhawks (9-0) allowed just 32 yards from scrimmage in the first half and recorded four takeaways on a chilly night.
Offensively, it was all Jalyn Aponte. The junior broke off a 75-yard touchdown on the fourth play from scrimmage and kept running all night to total 265 yards and four scores on 27 carries.
“We made some mental mistakes early, but we were able to overcome that by playing good defense and running the football,” said Natick coach Mark Mortarelli.
“Tonight with the way the weather was, it definitely was in our favor. We wanted to run the ball and we felt like if we could get Terrance [Cherry] and Jalyn to the next level, they’d have some big runs.”
Wellesley (7-2) was unable to get much going on the ground against a Redhawk defense that entered the game allowing just 9 points per game. Brisk winds and low temperatures made it difficult for Matt Maiona to get the Raiders passing game going and the game devolved into a bit of a scrum in the second quarter with seven personal fouls.
Behind a sizable offensive line, Aponte broke a 7-0 game wide open with a 37-yard run to set up a field goal in the third quarter, before adding touchdown runs of 40, 4, and 20 yards.
“It feels good to beat [Wellesley] again,” said Mortarelli. “Twice in one season is not easy to do. To be in this bracket, you have to face really good teams and we’ll have another tough one next week, but we’ll enjoy this for a minute.”
Nate Weitzer can be reached at email@example.com.