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MIAA football D6 semifinal | Ashland 49, Millbury 20

Dom Cavanagh sparks Ashland in D6 semifinal win over Millbury

GRAFTON — Trailing 14-7 midway through the second quarter of its Division 6 state semifinal at Grafton High, Ashland was in need of a spark.

The catalyst, as he has been all season, was Dom Cavanagh.

The senior QB directed a pair of second-quarter scoring drives, then fired three more TD passes in and rushed for another score in the second half as the Clockers crushed Central champion Millbury, 49-20.

Ashland (11-0) will play North champion Bishop Fenwick in the D6 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium Dec. 6-7.

“It was huge to get that momentum going into the second half,” said Ashland coach Andrew MacKay. “[Dom] is so special, he’s one of the most special players we’ve ever had the opportunity to coach.”

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The Clockers gained momentum on a nine-play scoring drive with under two minutes to play in the first half. In a 14-14 game, Ashland moved 58 yards downfield thanks to a trio of completions and two additional keepers from Cavanagh. Eddie Braganca gave Ashland the lead for good on a 3-yard rush with 22 seconds left in the half.

At the start of the third quarter, Ashland used just four plays, all rushes, to move downfield with precision. And it was Cavanaugh (14 for 18, 200 yards, 5 TDs) who had the keeper to double the lead.

“We definitely came out in the third a different team,” said Cavanagh. “We really weren’t playing like us. The game got too big for a second and we just got back to playing like we usually do.”

Ashland’s defense forced three-and-outs from Millbury (9-2) on its first two possessions of the third quarter, with the Clockers cashing in both opportunities. After the Clockers blocked a punt, Cavanagh hit Brandon Grover on the second play with a 32-yard strike, then followed on Ashland’s next possession with a 32-yard TD pass to Jake Merloni on the first play of the series.

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“A lot of it is my receivers, not just me,” said Cavanagh. “They all made plays. We came back in the second half with a mission, and just wanted to step on the gas.”

At the outset, the Clockers were overwhelmed by a strong rushing attack led by Millbury senior Xzavier Robles (20 carries, 111 yards), who scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Woolies in the second quarter.

“We knew going in we were going to have to keep up with them scoring,” said Millbury coach Ray Richards. “We played extremely hard, but the couple of plays they made in the third quarter we knew we would only be able to hold down [Cavanagh] for so long.”


Dan can be reached at dan.shulman@globe.com; follow him on Twitter @DanielRShulman.