The Thanksgiving birds roasting in the ovens of Norwood High football players and their families undoubtedly tasted a little sweeter following the team’s 41-6 basting of rival Dedham in the 84th edition of their holiday classic.
In this traditional season-ending event, which has endured since 1928, the Mustangs dominated the first half, racking up six unanswered touchdowns through a balanced offensive attack and exploiting Dedham turnovers.
The Marauders failed to get on track until midway through the fourth quarter when workhorse tailback Jay Maxwell finally snapped the shutout with a 2-yard plunge against Norwood reserves.
Norwood, which now leads the Thanksgiving Day series 46-36-2, wraps-up a disappointing 3-8 campaign, which had the potential for more, according to coach John Sarianides.
“After five losses by seven points or less, you could say we’ve had a rough year,” said Sarianides, who has now defeated Dedham each of his three years at the helm of the Mustangs. “But the kids hung in there, stayed together, and never quit. Despite the highs and lows of the season, this is their reward today.”
While the Mustangs hoisted the Frank Wall/Sal Toti at Norwood High’s new facility, the Dedham players gathered around their coaching staff at the opposite end of the field and listened intently to a postgame speech after a 1-9 season.
“While many of our seniors don’t think they gave much back to our program this year, I let them know otherwise,” said Dedham coach Dave Flynn. “Obviously, we’re not happy with how the game turned out but I can you assure you, that’s the last time you’ll see a result like that on a scoreboard in a Dedham game.”
Norwood quarterback John Nardelli, who was an efficient 4-of-6 for 124 yards, torched the Marauder secondary with a 44-yard TD pass to Marvin Besley to open the scoring deluge, 2:11 into the contest.
Dedham nearly answered on the ensuing kickoff when returner Gersaint Excellent found a seam along the sideline and saw plenty of daylight, but inadvertently stepped out of bounds.
Mustang tailback Jason Matovu, one of the Norwood seniors who were recognized with the traditional final home game parent-player ceremonial procession, contributed with a pair of rushing TDs. His first, from the 5, wrapped up a five-play, 51-yard series that began with a 33-yard toss from Nardelli to Besley. As time expired on the first quarter, Matovu made it 20-0, rumbling in from the 27.
Flynn was quick to point out the obvious disparity between the two programs, which could also be said of many Marauder opponents this season.
“You saw it pre-game,” said Flynn. “Norwood introduced 23 seniors. We’re mostly sophomores. High school football is all about senior leadership. At 18, you’re naturally bigger, stronger, and faster than a 16-year-old.
Norwood stretched the lead to 27-0 early in the second quarter on Besley’s 70-yard punt return for a score, followed soon thereafter with points off a Dedham fumble. Pat Foley converted the turnover with a 1-yarder after several snaps. With seconds left in the half, the Mustangs finalized their scoring with Nardelli’s 37-yard TD pass to Brad McIsaac for a 41-0 lead.
“We’re a multiple offense for a reason,” said Sarianides. “We want to do a little bit of everything. You saw that today. I thought we game-planned pretty well for Dedham. When we’re on our game and executing, we’re pretty tough to stop.”
When play resumed on the second half, Dedham squandered an opportunity to put points on the board. Starting from their own 19, the Marauders marched downfield to the Norwood 22 on eight plays, all but one a Maxwell rush. Back-to-back Norwood penalties moved the ball to the 5, but on the subsequent direct snap, Maxwell lost the handle and turned the ball over.
Midway through the final frame, Maxwell finally broke through a stubborn defense for a 2-yarder and precious points.
“Wins and losses don’t mean anything to me right now,” said Flynn. “What’s important is dedication to the sport and the few seniors we had who were able to give their all and leave it on the field. I’m excited to lead this group into the off-season and I’m already marking off the calendar to August 20th next year.”