WESTFORD — In a Dual County League showdown that certainly lived up to its billing, Westford Academy edged visiting Waltham on Thursday night, 21-14.
The result moved both teams to 3-1 overall, but earned the Grey Ghosts an important league decision behind Anthony Rudiman’s three touchdowns on the ground.
The game came down to the last play of the game as time expired.
Waltham’s final possession started from its own 3-yard line with 1:21 to play. The Hawks earned three first downs before facing a fourth-and-10 from the Westford 45-yard line with 10 seconds to go.
That’s when Waltham senior quarterback Jack Renaud connected with senior Josh Registre for a 24-yard completion to the 21 with just one second remaining. On the final play, Grey Ghosts sophomore Jameson Moran knocked away Renaud’s final throw of the game as the final horn sounded.
“Give credit to (Waltham),” said Westford Academy coach Bruce Rich Jr. “Driving 97 yards and still making it close with one second left. It was a battle. We knew that this was a different (Waltham) team than last year because we saw the type of work they had been putting in, but we put in work, too.”
Westford led 14-7 at halftime, but the Hawks tied the score late in the third quarter with a 62-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard run by senior Ty Connolly. Senior Edwin Ramirez’s extra point evened the score with 2:16 remaining in the quarter.
A 37-yard run by Registre and a fourth-and-4 pass for 7 yards from Renaud to Registre helped set up the Waltham score.
The Grey Ghosts answered on their next possession with what turned out to be the winning points, moving 50 yards in 10 plays after a nice kickoff return to midfield by senior Luke Fremault.
A pair of 12-yard runs by Ghost junior quarterback Jake Cullen and a 13-yard burst by Rudiman, a senior running back, set up his own 1-yard touchdown run with 9:04 remaining in the contest.
“He’s a beast,” Rich said of Rudiman.
“We just executed,” said Cullen. “That’s all we needed to do. It was an amazing win.”
The Hawks came right back on their next drive with two big runs by junior back Adam Chisari, but on third down from the Westford 13, a pass to Connolly near the goal line ended up seeing the ball stripped by Moran and fumbled into the end zone, where it was recovered by Ghost senior Tyler Murray for a touchback with 6:43 left.
Westford then went on a critical five-minute drive that ended with an excellent punt by senior Peter Burdin that landed inside the Hawk 5.
The Grey Ghosts needed every inch of that space in the closing moments.
“We battled,” said Rich. “In the past, we haven’t finished games like that, but the last two weeks against Concord-Carlisle and against these guys, we finished. We made plays …