MATTAPOISETT — It was a moment Jackson Moore will never forget.
The Apponequet junior had the game-changing play on Thursday to lift the Lakers past rival Old Rochester 22-3 at David S. Hagen Memorial Field.
The victory not only secured the South Coast Conference Blue Division title for Apponequet, but was the Lakers’ first over ORR on Thanksgiving since 2014 when Apponequet beat the Bulldogs 38-14.
“It’s awesome,” said Apponequet head coach Zane Fyfe. “It’s a Thanksgiving Day game. We wanted to give these seniors something to remember. They’ve given so much this year and they’ve been so impactful that we just wanted to make sure they walked away with something awesome.”
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With the Lakers clinging to a five-point lead and the Bulldogs driving down the field late in the fourth quarter, Moore picked off a short pass by Old Rochester senior quarterback Noah Sommers and returned it 45 yards to paydirt.
“Just to have that kind of momentum swing was huge for us,” Fyfe said. “He’s a former running back so he knows how to get to the edge and get up the sideline and get up there and score. I’m so happy for him and I’m so happy for the team. They worked so hard.”
It was Moore’s first career interception and first career touchdown.
“That was amazing. Words can’t describe how I felt,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to happen and it wouldn’t have happened without someone hitting the quarterback.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I need to run as fast as I can.’ I just did what I had to do.”
Fyfe added, “Memories are made on Thanksgiving and that’s going to stick with him forever.”
A two-point conversion run by senior quarterback Harrison Lemieux extended Apponequet’s lead to 16-3 with 5:14 to play.
“As freshmen they barely won a game and as seniors, week after week, they put it together,” Fyfe said. “To finish 8-2 they even admitted they didn’t see that coming. They’re a great team that gelled well together and complemented each other so well it all worked out in the end.”
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Apponequet’s defense, which held the Bulldogs to just 140 yards of total offense, came up with another turnover, setting up the final touchdown — a 29-yard scamper by senior running back Jackson Gagnier with 1:39 left.
“The defense was phenomenal,” Fyfe said. “We tried to take away what they did best. We weren’t going to let them run the option. We were going to force them to beat us in other ways. They tried the run game and they tried the pass game and we were able to run with them.”
Gagnier added, “Coach stressed responsibility football when it comes to the triple option and we did it perfectly. We stayed to our assignments and we played hard. Our strength all season has been our run defense. We knew they were going to try to run the ball and we just brought it and came out on top.”
The Lakers held the Bulldogs 30 points below their season average and kept ORR’s offense out of the end zone for the first time this season.
“Their defense played very well and I don’t think we executed well on offense,” said Old Rochester head coach Bryce Guilbeault. “There were sometimes when we had some plays that could be made and guys didn’t hold their blocks or we just missed the hole. A couple of turnovers didn’t help.
“I feel bad for the seniors. They’ve had a great four-year career and this is not the way they wanted to end it, but today Apponequet was the better team.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
It took the Lakers just three plays to get on the scoreboard as a 47-yard run by Gagnier set up a two-yard touchdown run by Lemieux. Gagnier punched in the two-point conversion to put Apponequet out front 8-0 with 6:34 left in the first quarter.
After a three and out by both teams, Old Rochester put together a 10-play drive that was capped off by a 34-yard field goal from junior Remy Wilson to pull the Bulldogs within 8-3 with 11:03 remaining in the second quarter.
Apponequet drove to the Old Rochester 5, but the Bulldogs stood their ground and stopped the Lakers on fourth-and-two just before halftime.
Neither team could get much going on offense in the third quarter.
Old Rochester moved up the field midway through the fourth quarter thanks to a 20-yard run by Sommers, but then the Bulldogs suffered the first of two turnovers in the game’s final 5:30.
“It feels amazing,” said Gagnier, who finished with 21 carries for 144 yards. “It’s been a fun ride. We were confident coming into the game. This meant everything to us.
“Our freshman year they beat us 56-0 and we kept talking about it this week. It was the perfect finish to a great season.”
Gagnier, one of 17 seniors on Apponequet’s team, credited the underclassmen with helping turn around the season after losing to Middleboro in the first game. The Lakers went on to win eight of their next nine games.
“After Week 1, it wasn’t looking too good and we moved some guys around,” Gagnier said. “A lot of younger guys stepped up. The juniors and sophomore stepped up. Without them, we’d be nothing.”
WHAT IT MEANS: With the win, the Lakers finish the year 8-2 and 4-0 in the South Coast Conference Blue Division. The loss, which is the second straight for Old Rochester, drops the Bulldogs’ record to 7-3 overall and 3-1 in the SCC Blue.
FYFE: “Coming into this season, we just didn’t know what to expect. We weren’t expecting much. We had a lot of young guys. We had inexperienced guys starting for the first time. To put that all together, it’s not a good recipe, but to go 8-2, win your first home playoff game ever, it’s fantastic.”
GUILBEAULT: “I just said, ‘You have to keep your heads up. You had a great career.’ We knew Apponequet was tough and we knew they were good. This is not the result we wanted, but there’s a lot to be proud of. I think those kids won two SCC championships while they were here. We’re proud of the kids. We had a good year. Those kids are dedicated and football is a grind. It’s not for everybody.”
TEAM STATS: The Lakers finished with 228 yards of total offense with 188 on the ground and 40 through the air. Apponequet had 10 first downs in the game. The Bulldogs had 140 yards of offense — 97 rushing and 43 passing. ORR had eight first downs.
NOTES: Apponequet’s Gagnier and Old Rochester’s Jacksen Martin each had a sack in the first half.
APPONEQUET 22, OLD ROCHESTER 3
APPONEQUET;8;0;0;14 — 22
OLD ROCHESTER;0;3;0;0 — 3
A: Harrison Lemieux 2 run (Jackson Gagnier run), 6:34
ORR: Remy Wilson 34 field goal, 11:03
A: Jackson Moore 45 interception return (Harrison Lemieux run), 5;14
A: Jackson Gagnier 29 run (run failed), 1:39
Rushing — A: Jackson Gagnier 21-144-1, Harrison Lemieux 8-25-1, Jacob Flounders 3-4, Quinn Bennett 3-13, Brody Joly 1-2; ORR: Walter Rosher 12-40, Noah Sommers 9-41, Jacksen Martin 6-16.
Passing — A: Harrison Lemieux 3-9-24-0-0, Jackson Gagnier 1-1-16; ORR: Noah Sommers 4-14-43-0-1.
Receiving — A: Austyn Travis 1-16, Quinn Bennett 1-3, Caiden Cyr 1-9, Brody Joly 1-12; ORR: Landon Maxwell 2-26, Jacksen Martin 1-0, Tyler Williams 1-17.