Craan propels Concord-Carlisle
Back scores four TDs to hold off Holliston
LOWELL - Concord-Carlisle’s game plan against Holliston last night was simple: Give the ball to George Craan and wear down the Panthers.
“I felt that we brought it to them,’’ Craan said. “Smashmouth football, that’s our motto. I feel like our guys did a good job executing our game.’’
No one executed better than Craan, who carried 37 times for 222 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots’ 32-27 victory in a Division 3 Eastern Mass playoff game at Cawley Memorial Stadium.
“He was really ready for this game,’’ said Patriots coach Mike Robichaud. “George basically demanded the ball. He told us he could get the job done, and we’ve learned to trust him over the last several years.”
Holliston, the Tri-Valley League Large champion, struck first, reaching the end zone on a 38-yard seam pass from Dan Barone (12 of 21, 232 yards, 3 TDs) to Brody Ciarcello (six catches, 100 yards, 2 TDs). Stephen Hennessy sneaked home the 2-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
C-C answered right back, using nine plays to travel 65 yards, capped by a 3-yard scamper from Craan, who added the 2-point conversion to knot the score early in the second quarter.
After both clubs traded punts, Holliston committed a costly turnover, fumbling a handoff, which was recovered by the Patriots at the Holliston 24. On the next play, Craan raced around the edge for his second score. Ryan Hoey hit tight end Henry Bumpus on the 2-point conversion to give the Dual County Small champions a 16-8 advantage.
Barone responded just prior to halftime, connecting with Ciarcello on an 18-yard fade route to make it 16-14.
The Patriots continued to pound the rock in the third quarter, eating 5:21 off the clock on an 11-play, 70-yard drive that prominently featured Craan. He scored from 4 yards out and took home the 2-point conversion for a 24-14 lead.
The Panthers refused to give up, however, answering with a 24-yard toss from Barone to Max Athy on fourth down. Barone knocked home the extra point to make it 24-21 at the end of the third.
Both defenses stood tall on the following possessions, with C-C halted at the Panther 5 and Holliston forced to punt on a three-and-out. The Patriots chewed another four minutes off the clock on a 29-yard drive, capped off by a 6-yard TD run by Craan. Tyquan Culbreath added the 2-point conversion for a 32-21 edge.
Holliston didn’t fold its tent, however, as Barone scored on a 4-yard keeper with 35 seconds to go to cut it to 32-27, but Will Blumenberg recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.
C-C will meet Oliver Ames in the Division 3 Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
“We have a goal to achieve, and that’s to go back and get that ring,’’ Craan said. “Last year we lost and it was a sour taste in my mouth, and I didn’t like it.’’