METHUEN — Yes, it was only one play in a long game of many, but it certainly didn’t help Methuen.
On the game’s opening kickoff, Zac Bergeron caught it at the 20 and weaved his way through Acton-Boxboro defenders on his way to the end zone, firing up the Methuen faithful that sat frozen to their seats on a brutally cold night (24 degrees, 12 degrees with wind chill) at Nicholson Stadium.
But, as the Rangers celebrated, the head umpire announced a holding penalty over the PA system to negate the play.
And that would be the only time the Rangers would get to celebrate in the end zone, as Acton-Boxboro rolled, 27-0.
“That’s kind of been the story of our year for the last four or five weeks,” said Methuen coach Tom Ryan, whose team dropped its fifth in a row after starting the year 4-0.
“Every time we get something positive, we shoot ourselves in the foot with a penalty. It was the right call, it was a penalty. The refs called it right.”
But even it the play did stand, there was no telling how the game would have gone with how well Acton-Boxboro (6-3) played.
Quarterback Nate Sullivan impressed, throwing for 159 yards and four touchdowns. He hit Jed Hoggard on a 55-yard strike in the first, then found running back Alex Berrouet on a 60-yard screen in the second to make it a 14-0 game at halftime. A strong two-way player, Sullivan also came away with a pair of interceptions.
Methuen had five turnovers on the night.
“Their running back and their quarterback are very good,” said Ryan. “And their defense flies to the ball.”
But the Rangers did have highlights defensively, forcing four turnovers themselves. Junior Gelin and Andrew Wannaphong both had fumble recoveries, Joenel Figueroa had an interception, Ben Cadet broke up a pair of passes and junior quad-captain Anthony Romano was in on his usual bundle of tackles.
But the offense — despite 70 yards on 20 carries from Bergeron — could never get going.
Meanwhile, Sullivan threw touchdown passes to Sean Kelly in the third and Berrouet in the fourth to put the game out of reach.
It was definitely a tough night for Methuen, but the beat goes on next week against an opponent yet to be announced.
Bryant’s returnOn the bright side for the Rangers, Ryan believes that starting QB Connor Bryant will be back next week. The electric dual-threat senior has been sidelined the past five weeks with a broken foot after leading the Rangers to the 4-0 starter.
“We’ve got to be able to move the ball downfield and score on offense,” said Ryan. “That is always the best defense you have, is to move the ball, long drives with six points at the end. If you can’t do that, you can’t win, and that’s just the fact of the matter.”
Acton-Boxboro 27, Methuen 0
Acton-Boxboro (6-3): 7 7 7 6 — 27
Methuen (4-5): 0 0 0 0 — 0
Jed Hoggard 55 pass from Nate Sullivan (Jacob Emmett kick), 4:46
Alex Berrouet 60 pass from Sullivan (Emmett kick), 2:27
Sean Kelly 20 pass from Sullivan (Emmett kick), 2:19
Berrouet 28 pass from Sullivan (kick failed), 4:30
RUSHING: METHUEN (34-93): Zac Bergeron 20-70, Kareem Coleman 8-31, Joe Gangi 6-(-8); ACTON-BOXBORO (23-153): Alex Berrouet 11-80, Nate Sullivan 8-56, Tyler Clayton 2-10, Anthony Pittorino 1-4, Sean Kelly 1-3
PASSING: METHUEN — Gangi 9-16-3, 41, Coleman 1-1-0, 11, Nic Mathieu 1-1-0, 11; ACTON-BOXBORO — Sullivan 7-15-1, 169
RECEIVING: METHUEN — Mathieu 1-25, Coleman 5-11, Zac Lunden 1-11, Joey Pinto 1-9, Anthony Romano 1-6, Bergeron 2-1; ACTON-BOXBORO — Berrouet 4-93, Jed Hoggard 1-55, Kelly 2-21