WESTFORD - A win on Thanksgiving can mean many things.
A team can erase the lost hopes of a once-budding season. Old rivals can avenge past defeats. College-bound players can go out on top. In some cases, a win can propel a team into the playoffs.
Always, the turkey tastes better for the victors.
But for Acton-Boxboro, which yesterday edged Westford, 28-25, to claim a share of the Dual County League title, this year's feast was bittersweet.
For video highlights from key Dual County games, visit Boston.com/schools
The easiest way for the Colonials (9-2, 7-1) to make the postseason was to beat Westford while Lincoln-Sudbury lost to Newton South (since A-B held the tiebreaker over Wayland). But an L-S win meant A-B needed to overcome the point-differential advantage held by Wayland and L-S.
Acton-Boxboro entered the game with a plus-102 differential, meaning the Colonials needed to make up 21 points, as well as score more points than L-S in the first half.
As it turned out, Lincoln-Sudbury came back from a 12-7 halftime deficit to win, 20-12, and A-B couldn't make up the difference in its victory. Thus, the DCL ended in a three-way tie, with Wayland the postseason representative.
Senior captain John Dufresne knew the postseason chances were slim "unless anything crazy happened. We just wanted to come out and end it right. There was nothing else left to do but win the game."
Acton-Boxboro coach Bill Maver seemed content to win by any margin.
"I was worried about beating Westford," said Maver. "This is Thanksgiving and I've been doing this for years. I know anything can happen."
From the opening drive, time was not on the Colonials' side, as Westford's Tim Jordan returned the kickoff to the 50. The Grey Ghosts went only 11 yards in six plays, but quarterback/punter Steve Demaras pinned A-B at its 2.
The Colonials responded, but not quickly. A-B used 12 plays, including 11 rushes, before Trevor Jeanson scored the first of his four touchdowns with 1:30 remaining in the first quarter. A-B called time following the score, then converted a 2-point pass, as junior Alex Kastrinelis found senior Mike Austin.
"That's what we do, run," said Maver.
Westford cut into that lead and the clock, eating up 4:30 before Brian Kohr hit a 23-yard field goal.
The Colonials took the clock under three minutes on another long drive that started on their 36 and ended at Westford's 13, where the Grey Ghosts stuffed Jeanson on fourth and 3.
Ahead, 8-3, and aware that L-S was trailing Newton South, 12-7, the Colonials came out fast, knowing they could sneak into the playoffs if South pulled the upset.
Acton-Boxboro went three-and-out to begin the half, but then it stood up Westford. Dufresne made the most of the opportunity, blocking Demaras's punt. Three plays later, Jeanson scored from 6 yards.
Junior Sam Shackleton returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a TD, rejuvenating Westford and the home crowd.
The teams traded scores for the remainder of the game. Jeanson added his third rushing TD late in the third quarter, and Westford's Ian McEnaney (18 carries, 60 yards) found the end zone from 1 yard out at 6:20 of the fourth.
The two drives spanned almost eight minutes in the shortened 18-minute half. According to MIAA rules, teams can only play a 40-minute game on Thanksgiving, but because of the point-differential factor, two-11 minute quarters were played in the first half.
Jeanson saved his best play for last. Alex Kastrinelis threaded a perfect pass between defenders to Jeanson, who managed to stay inbounds for a 51-yard strike down the left sideline.
Senior captain Riley O'Keefe added a score for Westford, but A-B controlled the onside kick to seal the victory.