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Globe West Football Thursday

On, off field, Craan can carry the ball

Concord-Carlisle Regional’s George Craan outruns Tyngsborough High defenders en route to scoring his team’s third touchdown in Friday’s 43-21 win. Concord-Carlisle Regional’s George Craan outruns Tyngsborough High defenders en route to scoring his team’s third touchdown in Friday’s 43-21 win. (Mark Wilson for The Boston Globe)
By Jeff Schaible
Globe Correspondent / November 18, 2010

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George Craan carries a football with him wherever he goes. He has done so since first grade.

This season, the shifty junior running back from Concord-Carlisle Regional High has carried the ball into the end zone 18 times, the most of any rusher in Division 2A.

Some players lug a football around with them “because they fumble a lot or because a coach told them to,’’ Craan said. “I’ve always done it because I love it. I can’t be without it. It started back in elementary school. In recess they’d never have a football, only kickball. So I brought my own. I carried it all the time. And I still do.’’

A Metco student from Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood, the 6-foot, 190-pound Craan has emerged as the feature back in the Wing-T offense used by coach Mike Robichaud, rushing for 1,521 yards while leading Concord-Carlisle to its second consecutive Dual County League Small Division title.

Last Friday, Craan ran for 147 yards and two first-half touchdowns as the Patriots (8-2) cruised past host Tyngsborough. His second score, a dazzling 44-yard dash aided by crunching downfield blocking from his teammates, showcased his elusive moves.

“We’re a run-first team,’’ said Robichaud, in his second year as head coach. “Some may call it boring, but we think it’s pretty good. We rely heavily on our line and specifically our guards,’’ Ryan Ruiz and Thomas Kleyn, he said. “They kick-start the whole thing. When we get one of those guys out in front of George, good things happen.’’

Craan seconded his coach’s praise for the offensive line.

“They’re fast,’’ he said. “Fast and tough. Sometimes I’m running downfield and they’re right there next to me. It’s crazy. And the first defender that gets to me, he’s not going to bring me down so we can extend a lot of plays, break off a big one when we need to.’’

Ruiz and Kleyn are joined up front by center Andrew VanderWilden, tackles Tom Gregory and Trevor Castrichini, and 6-foot-6, 200-pound tight end Henry Bumpus.

The athletic unit could help prove Craan to be prophetic. “The first time I met George, it was hours after I was named head coach,’’ said Robichaud.

“We were at a basketball game and he walked right over. ‘Congratulations,’ he said. ‘Coach, we’re going to win a Super Bowl.’ I laughed and told him we’ve got a long way to go.’’

With the league-clinching win, the Patriots have already punched their postseason ticket. They’ll face Cape Ann League Large champs North Andover (9-1) in the Division 2A semifinals Nov. 30.

But first things first.

“We want nothing more than postseason success,’’ said Craan. “But we’re not there yet. We still have Bedford. Thanksgiving rivalries, they’re must-win.’’

It’s that kind of focus that has his coach singing his praise.

“George is a guy — in terms of his focus, his enthusiasm, and how supportive he is of his teammates — he’s everything you want in a player,’’ said Robichaud. “He’s a great motivator and a hard worker. Every play, every game, he’s going all out. He’s not going to overlook anyone or take any opponent lightly.’’

Though Bedford is 5-4 this fall, the Buccaneers have always given Concord-Carlisle a battle on Thanksgiving. Two years ago, the Bucs engineered a lopsided win that changed the Concord-Carlisle program, the coach said.

“They really spanked us,’’ said Robichaud, who was then an assistant coach. “It was embarrassing. I think it set the table for last year. We came back with a businesslike attitude.’’

The Patriots exacted revenge last fall with a 25-7 win that secured the division title and the team’s first playoff berth since 1978.

“The kids have really bought into what we’re doing here,’’ Robichaud said. “They’re prepping in the offseason, practicing with a purpose, and have learned the system. They know that we’re going to pound it out. If we win the battles up front, we’ll win the game.’’

Minutemen want to win it for Tighe After 60 years on the sideline, Lexington High coach Bill Tighe will retire after the Thanksgiving Day matchup against visiting Burlington.

“All good things must end,’’ said the 86-year-old Tighe, the nation’s oldest high school football coach. “Eventually the curtain has to come down. It’s not an easy decision, because I’ll miss the kids, the people, and the game, but it’s time.’’

Tighe began his head coaching career at Wakefield in 1957, and arrived in Lexington in 1975 after a brief stint at Malden. Going into his final game, his career mark is 268-232-13. The Minutemen are 5-5 this season.

“It’s really sad, obviously,’’ said Lexington junior Nick Murray. “He’s been a big part of this program for a long, long time. He’s a legend. We’ll be trying real hard to send him off with another win.’’

Lawrence, Rivers keep streaks alive In a battle of unbeatens, Lawrence Academy took to the air and defeated Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, 36-7, last weekend to earn a share of the Independent School League title with the Rivers School of Weston.

Senior quarterback Mike Orloff completed 13 of 20 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns as the squad from Groton ran the table for a second straight year.

Lawrence Academy, led by coach Mike Taylor, will face Salisbury (Conn.) School (8-0) in the Tom Flaherty Bowl, their New England Preparatory School Athletic Council’s divisional championship, Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Williston Northampton School in Easthampton

Orloff and his future teammate at the University of Iowa, Marcus Grant, (seven catches, 153 yards) proved too much for Buckingham. In the first quarter, Grant slipped behind the Knights’ secondary and reeled in a 56-yard bomb to put the Spartans up by two scores.

Rivers (8-0) wrapped up its regular season with a 35-21 come-from-behind win over Roxbury Latin last weekend. In the program’s first postseason appearance, the Red Hawks will face the (8-0) Pingree School, champs of the Evergreen League’s North Division, in the Norm Walker Bowl at 2 p.m. Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

Warriors capture DCL Large title Lincoln-Sudbury Regional captured the Dual County League’s Large Division title with a 24-7 win over Boston Latin. The Warriors (7-3, 4-0) took care of business one week after seizing control of the division with a narrow victory over Acton-Boxborough Regional.

Senior running back Marc Pace rushed for two touchdowns as the Warriors secured their Division 1A playoff berth.

After the team’s traditional Thanksgiving tilt against Newton South High, Lincoln-Sudbury will face undefeated Gloucester (10-0) in the first round.

Jeff Schaible can be reached at jeff.schaible@gmail.com.