Westford Academy might have been able to put up a better performance than their opening week loss against Lowell, but it still would not be enough against a determined Chelmsford team coming off their own difficult opening week loss as well as allegations of a hazing scandal that had dogged their program for several days prior to the game.
The Ghosts fell on the road to Chelmsford 29-22 in a white knuckle thrill ride where both teams went for large plays and often paid the price, combining for nearly half a dozen turnovers.
Westford’s Ben Rodman started things off with a 91-yard touchdown scamper on the second play of the game, followed by his second score later in the quarter, eventually reaching 130 yards by halftime.
Chelmsford brought the game back within six thanks to a Jeff D’Auria touchdown and Todd Dowrey two-point conversion, but the momentum truly swung in the Lions’ favor thanks to an acrobatic diving endzone catch by Mike Calicchio with seconds left in the half to stun the visitors and take a 22-14 lead at the half.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a catch like that in high school football,” said Chelmsford head coach Bruce Rich. “All-scholastic Mike Murphy played on the championship team a few years ago and he said he never came close to a catch like that. Mike’s just a great athlete and a great talent, he’s one of our go to guys.”
But Westford would shift back that momentum in the third quarter thanks to a fourth down scoring pass to Will Puduski that tied up the contest at 22.
The two teams slugged it out in the fourth quarter, but the Ghosts would ultimately falter after a quarterback sneak by Jack Campsmith gave Chelmsford back the lead and a successful fake punt by D'Auria in Westford territory with less than two minutes left provided the Lions a first down and the ball game.
“The fake punt, even if we didn’t get it, we’d still be on their 39, but it certainly helped,” said Rich.
Regardless of anything off the field, the primary emotion coming from those on the Chelmsford sideline was pride after what can only be described as a resilient on-field performance.
“We’ve had some adversity, we had more adversity tonight being down by a score like that and the kids came through, they’re playing for each other, they’re a family, we have a tight family right now,” said Rich. “We couldn’t get back out on the field fast enough. Last week was a tough game, mentally we weren’t in it. This week we overcame lots of adversity, but the kids showed up and did a great job.
On the other sideline, one could point to the three touchdown improvement over their loss against Lowell last week as something for the Grey Ghosts to hang their hats on heading into Dual County League play.
However, Westford Academy head coach Adam Gagne still believes his team is capable of much more.
“I don’t believe in moral victories, there’s a reason why we scheduled Lowell and Chelmsford, we wanted a rugged schedule,” said Gagne. “But if anyone feels sorry about themselves, don’t show up on Monday because in two weeks we have Acton-Boxborough to look forward to.”
Chelmsford will hope to continue their winning streak against archrival Billerica next week at home while the Ghosts will have a bye week before traveling to Acton and then returning home against Waltham.