WEYMOUTH -- For the past three years, Weymouth quarterback Mike Magnell left the Thanksgiving Day game disappointed for the seniors who lost to Walpole.
Yesterday, Magnell and his fellow senior teammates celebrated a win for themselves and another step forward for Weymouth's program with a 21-8 victory over Walpole, their first win in the series since 2002 and their second overall in a rivalry that began in 1996.
"Walpole has a tremendous tradition over there, no matter if they're playing for a championship or not," Weymouth coach Kevin Mackin said. "They're a hard-hitting team and play with a lot of intensity, and we were able to match it."
In a constant rain and finger-numbing chill, Weymouth simply handed the ball to running back Michael Waithe. Again, again, and again.
"I wasn't expecting to run that much," Waithe said.
Waithe rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries and added three touchdowns for Weymouth, which will play Marshfield in a Division 1A playoff Tuesday. Weymouth (9-2) used Waithe to control the clock in a game shortened to 10-minute quarters because of an MIAA rule for playoff-bound teams.
Waithe's durability was put to the test in the first quarter. A turnover gave Weymouth possession at its 41-yard line. Nearly seven minutes later, Waithe capped a 13-play, 69-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. He accounted for 65 yards on 11 plays on the drive.
Walpole struggled to find a rhythm but did take advantage of a fumbled punt in the second quarter to set up its only scoring drive. Running back Eric McGraw ran for a 3-yard touchdown and the 2-point conversion with 5:41 left in the half to tie the score, 8-8. McGraw rushed for a team-high 72 yards on 16 carries.
Walpole (6-5) had opportunities to pull ahead but was plagued by turnovers. Its strongest drive in the third quarter led to the Weymouth 15, but the ball was fumbled and recovered by Weymouth.
"Our game plan is what we needed to win, but we just needed to execute a little bit better," said Walpole coach Danny Villa.
Each team struggled punting into a wind that turned umbrellas inside-out. The wind also made passing tricky. But Magnell was able to make a key completion, finding Nick Winquist sprinting along the sideline for a 57-yard gain.
"I don't think I could feel my fingers," Winquist said.
Winquist was tripped up at the 1-yard line, setting up Waithe's touchdown run. A failed extra point left the score at 14-8 with 5:45 left in the game.
Weymouth pulled away on its next possession as Waithe ran 2 yards for a touchdown with 1:36 left.
Weymouth showed how far it has come from an 0-11 record in 2004 to 3-8 last year to the playoffs this year. And when it came to the Walpole game, Weymouth was on the losing end of three straight double-digit decisions.
"It used to be after the games we would just feel sorrowful and you would feel bad for the seniors," Magnell said.
This year, Waithe said, he and his teammates have learned how to win in close games. And Magnell hopes that will carry the team in the postseason.
"Throughout the year, we've gained confidence in coming back from tough situations," Magnell said.