FITCHBURG – The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders were blown out of the proverbial water Friday night by the Fitchburg Red Raiders in a 46-0 shellacking at Crocker Field.
Things looked bleak for the Crusaders right from the opening drive as a high snap on 3rd & 7 was recovered by Fitchburg’s Bruce Johnson to set up the Red Raiders on the G-D 39 yard line. On the ensuing drive, Darius Flowers (8-for-12, 108 yards) threw his first of three touchdown passes, a 10-yard strike to Nick Myles (five receptions, 62 yards) to put the Red Raiders up 7-0 with 6:50 to play in the first quarter.
Everything that could go wrong did for the Crusaders. Countless missed tackles, five botched snaps, two fumbles, and an interception led to the Red Raiders outgaining them, 287-14. The Red Raiders could have had more yardage, but they were afforded short fields thanks to three G-D turnovers and great special teams play, including an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown by Flowers in the second quarter and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Andrew Lara in the third. Lara caught the punt the split second it left Eric Yanchenko’s foot and ran it in untouched.
“We didn’t show up,” G-D head coach Derek Asadoorian said. “Fitchburg played pretty well, and we helped them out. It was pretty ugly.”
Even when the Crusaders were in a position to make a stop and get the ball back, they couldn’t hold up. This was exemplified late in the second quarter after an interception by Johnson set up the Red Raiders at the G-D 20. On 4th & 17, Flowers hooked up with Manny Payton for a 17-yard touchdown pass, even with two Crusaders defenders blanketing him.
The Red Raiders wrapped up their first-half scoring with a safety by Lara to go into halftime up 27-0.
The Crusaders tried to muster some momentum with an onside kick to start play, but it went out of bounds and gave the Raiders excellent field position again, this time at their own 44-yard line. That would lead to a Flowers 7-yard touchdown pass to Payton.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity,” Asadoorian said. “We’re lacking some leadership. We’re trying to find out identity. It hasn’t been easy with two tough games the past two weeks… we couldn’t pull them out, but it was nice to see that we battled, and tonight we didn’t have it. Hopefully we can get back to work and get better for next week.”
The Crusaders’ 2014 campaign has seen a promising 2-0 start give way to four straight losses. A win would have all but clinched a spot in the MIAA Division 4 Central playoffs, as they would have gotten bonus points for defeating a Division 2 team in Fitchburg (2-4). Now they must win next Friday at homecoming against Westborough in order to have a shot at qualifying.
“We just have to play our game and execute,” Asadoorian said when asked what it would take to beat Westborough. “We have to rally around each other. It’s a team game. We have to get a good all-around effort.”
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