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Football Thursday

At Concord-Carlisle, it’s ‘family’

Undefeated team, says star running back Craan, is hard to break

With Andrew vanderWilden (No. 50) blocking defenders, Concord-Carlisle’s George Craan picked up yardage against Acton-Boxborough Friday. With Andrew vanderWilden (No. 50) blocking defenders, Concord-Carlisle’s George Craan picked up yardage against Acton-Boxborough Friday. (Jay Connor for The Boston Globe)
By Phil Perry
Globe Correspondent / October 27, 2011

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CONCORD - With a cool splash, a huge weight was lifted off the Concord-Carlise football program.

The Patriots had not beaten Dual County League rival Acton-Boxborough since 1987. So in the final minute of their 35-12 win over the Colonials last Friday night, the C-C players gave coach Mike Robichaud a celebratory water-cooler bath that was more than 20 years overdue.

Drenched, Robichaud smiled and saw senior running back George Craan at his side. The coach wrapped an arm around his star back, who ran for 244 yards and three touchdowns, and planted a kiss on top of his head.

It was a night full of heartfelt outpourings for the undefeated Patriots (7-0) and for Craan in particular. Local Pop Warner players got as close as possible to the Concord-Carlisle bench, hoping Craan would see them, erupting in cheers when he waved.

“Go, George!’’ could be heard from the home crowd when the Patriots defense was on the field - even though Craan doesn’t play on defense.

He has achieved near celebrity status on Friday nights in Concord because of performances like the one in the benchmark win over A-B. Of his three touchdowns, each was tougher than the last. On his third, he dragged a Colonial defender 5 yards into the end zone.

“We figured George was going to have to carry the water for us tonight, and he did,’’ said Robichaud. “He answered the bell again like we know he’s capable of doing. He had some tough, tough earned yards. He was just a weapon.’’

As he is every week.

At 6-feet, 205 pounds, Craan is a load for opposing defenses. His understanding of C-C’s Wing T offense has only improved since his stellar junior season, in which he racked up 24 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 yards rushing. He is hitting holes faster and looking to punish linebackers and safeties once he’s through the line. As a result, he already has 14 touchdowns and could eclipse the 1,000-yard mark tomorrow against Weston.

“We just have to execute,’’ Craan said. “We have to be relentless. If we run our bread-and-butter plays, we’re confident. No one can stop us.’’

Craan, a Metco student from Hyde Park, was determined to work out with his teammates as much as possible this past summer. He took the commuter rail, he walked or got rides from friends; however he had to get there, he did. And when he had extra energy, he lifted weights at his local YMCA, did boxing workouts, and ran sprints at Madison Park High School.

To make the back-and-forth easier, Craan often stayed with his senior teammate Henry Bumpus and his family in Concord, an arrangement that also helped two of the team’s senior leaders form a tighter bond.

“We have a good friendship that’s been built over football,’’ said Bumpus, a two-way end headed to Brown next year.

“It’s very important to me. And I think it helped our success because of the coordination between all the players on and off the field working together, encouraging each other, saying ‘If you block for me, I’ll run and I’ll hit that hole for you.’ It helps our offense, and it’s why we’ve had so much success.’’

The Patriots are averaging 39 points per game behind their dominating run game. The blocking schemes, anchored by Bumpus, senior center Andrew vanderWilden (also committed to Brown), senior guards Thomas Klein and Owen Guattaduaro and receiver Jackson Finigan have helped clear the way for Craan and others.

Senior Tyquan Culbreath and junior Tim Badgley also scored against A-B.

“It’s not just Craan,’’ said A-B coach Bill Maver. “They’re a very talented team. That’s the best team I’ve seen since I’ve been at Acton. I’d be very surprised if they don’t go all the way.’’

They came close last season, falling to Duxbury in the Division 2A Super Bowl, and while it’s their mission to get back, the Patriots are focused on continuing to build on the chemistry they developed this summer and carry that to a DCL Small championship.

“When we come out, we’re family,’’ Craan said. “We’re not just a team. It’s easier to break a team than a family. We execute and we all got each other’s backs.’’

Nashoba’s big D puts up the W’s

Coach Ken Tucker knew he had a good team returning at Nashoba Regional this season after the Chieftains reached the CMass Division 1 Super Bowl against St. John’s Shrewsbury. But he could not have predicted a 7-0 start, the best he can remember since his first involvement with the program in 1977.

“We had some great seniors last year that graduated,’’ Tucker said. “But we also knew that we had a great nucleus back, and if we could put the pieces together, we thought we’d be competitive. We’ve been more than that, I guess.’’

They’ve been elite in large part because of the defense. Nashoba has recorded three shutouts while allowing 7.6 points per game. Junior inside linebacker Zack Hume has cemented himself as one of the best defensive players in the state. At 6-2, 225 pounds, he has been a force alongside senior captain Sam Ashline and junior Jack Sarnoski. Hume (79 tackles) is receiving strong interest from the football staff at University of Connecticut.

“It all starts with the linebackers,’’ said Tucker. Hume “is a very smart player. He’s very good at reading offenses, and that’s my preference to have him sit and read, but when he blitzes, he’s deadly.’’

Among odds, ends, two rare forfeits

Watertown’s sterling run came to a halt last weekend when it fell to Melrose, 35-7, but the Red Raiders (6-1) are still in the mix to win the Middlesex Small. They take on Burlington tomorrow. . . .

Belmont Hill (5-0) registered a rare forfeit victory when Brooks had to withdraw from last week’s game. Because of injuries, Brooks had an insufficient number of players to compete. . . . Trinity Catholic also has forfeited this week’s game against Minuteman Tech because of a shortage of healthy players. . . .

Lincoln-Sudbury middle linebacker Will Tyman also serves as the team’s kicker and was on target last week. He booted two field goals (from 25 and 30 yards) and four extra points to help beat Boston Latin, 34-12.

Phil Perry can be reached at paperry27@gmail.com.