MARSHFIELD — One of the most consistent scorers for the undefeated Duxbury High football team was on the fairway this time last year.
Now he’s heading to Gillette Stadium for a state championship next week with a Patriot League Keenan Division Trophy in hand.
“It’s really special,” said Duxbury senior kicker Nathan Elliott. “We had a really good golf team as well (and) I had to sacrifice making a run to states with them (in order to play football this year). I’m grateful to do it here.”
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Elliott kicked important fourth-quarter field goals on back-to-back drives as Duxbury beat Marshfield, 26-7, in the 37th annual Thanksgiving Day game. The first field goal was a 25-yarder, the second a 29-yarder that gave the Dragons (11-0) a three-score lead over the Rams (7-4).
How Elliott became a kicker on one of the best football teams on the South Shore is far from typical.
“Our kicker was a senior last year, so we needed a new kicker. I have a soccer background my whole life. So I put the work in this summer, fall, and gave them a kicker,” said Elliott.
“Elliott did three years on the golf team and never played football,” said Duxbury quarterback Matt Festa, who fought through an illness to play in this game. “I actually saw him kicking this summer and I told him he had to quit.”
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With a state championship game awaiting next week, this holiday rivalry may not have been ranked the highest on Duxbury’s priority list, but the Dragons still wanted the win.
“I’m just happy these kids showed up today and gave it everything they’ve got, knowing they have another game next week,” said Duxbury Coach Matt Landolfi. “And to put that aside and focus on today took a lot of resilience from the kids. Just happy for them.”
The top-seeded Dragons will face No. 2 Grafton in the Div. 4 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Friday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m
For now, a league Championship Trophy — Duxbury has won 14 straight Keenan Crowns — will do just fine.
“It means a lot to the whole community,” said Festa. “We have a long streak winning the league championship so we don’t want to give it up.”
Festa threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns against Marshfield. He’s up to 34 TD passes for the season to go along with his 12 rushing scores.
Festa wasn’t at 100 percent but shrugged off the illness, saying, “It’s a flu not a broken leg so I can still play.”
“He’s an amazing leader,” Landolfi raved. “He was sick at home with the flu, but there was no way he wasn’t playing. He’s just the leader of the team, he’s got that edge, and the kids follow him.”
Festa’s first touchdown throw came in the second quarter on a 26-yard screen pass to junior Adam Barr for a 13-0 lead. Junior Alex Barlow had put the Dragons up 6-0 with a 2-yard TD run up the middle.
Duxbury’s third and last touchdown came right out of the half on a methodical 87-yard drive. Festa capped that march with a 23-yard scoring pass to senior Parker Villar to make it 20-7.
Defensively the Dragons were no slouches, either, as senior Captain Brendan Bonner, a defensive back, had a pair of interceptions.
“He is an absolute football player,” Landolfi said. “This is his fourth pick in two weeks in huge games. Doesn’t surprise me. Great kid and we’re going to miss him next year.”
Bonner said it’s his ability to stay disciplined and patient in the secondary that’s led to success.
“The first one, he was scrambling around I was like, ‘Do I rush (the quarterback) or do I stay?'” said Bonner. “I stayed and I stayed and (I) was able to jump in front of the pass and pick that off.
“The second one I just dropped back, followed the game plan, and the ball found me,” Bonner continued.
The only Rams’ score came in the second quarter when senior quarterback Anthony Molander hit Jack Marini with an 8-yard TD pass to cut Duxbury’s lead to 13-7.
As for the rest of the Dragons’ defense, it was their ability to apply pressure on the pocket that created opportunities.
“Everyone’s been stepping up this year,” Festa said. “Henry Bicknell made some big plays, and the whole Offensive line played awesome. Colin Quinlan played a big role today. One of our Seniors didn’t play today, so (Quinlan) stepped in and did a great job.”
As for Marshfield, Thanksgiving Day concluded their rollercoaster of a season. After starting the season 0-2, the Rams were used to facing tough competition with their backs against the wall.
“I told these guys last night and today it’s about the journey,” said Marshfield Coach Chris Arouca. “Think about where we started to where we ended, we got a lot better than the year went on. They kept progressing and didn’t quit. We had a pretty good year considering all the things we dealt with in the beginning of the year.”
As for Duxbury, their season continues for one last game. Although Elliot only spent one year with the football team, he’s making it count.
“The Coach and the teammates have been awesome,” said Elliot. “They’re like family to me. I’ve really enjoyed it.”