WESTWOOD — The last time Brockton beat Xaverian, all the way back in 2012, the Boxers had a quarterback in Austin Roberts who knew a thing or two about knowing when to give the ball to a running back or keep it for himself.
It appears, seven years later, that Brockton coach Peter Colombo has found another playmaker at the position whose reads are progressing at the same rate.
Friday night, Devonte Medley made the correct decision more times than not to either hand the ball to Ahmik Watterson or take off with it himself, and the result was an explosive, 41-21 win.
It marked the first win for the Boxers over their storied nonleague rival since 2012. Before that, Brockton had not defeated the Hawks since 2007. It was the first time the Boxers won at the Hawk Bowl since 2006.
"Oh, you think?" Colombo said when a reporter mentioned it that the Hawks have had the Boxers' number of late. "We talked about it. It's been too long; 2012 was the last time we beat these guys. It's very gratifying to come in here against a great program. Let's face it, they've been awesome the last 10 years. It's just great to win a game."
But those past landmarks came secondary to what this Boxers offense is capable of the rest of the season. Watterson rushed for 215 yards and three touchdowns on 13 attempts. Medley carried the ball 18 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns. The junior also threw for 33 yards and a touchdown, as his team raced out to a 28-7 halftime lead, then popped in two fourth-quarter touchdowns after the Hawks pulled to within 28-21.
"Oh my God. (Medley's) starting to see things," Colombo said. "It's slowing down. He knows what we're doing now. That 1-2 punch (of Medley and Watterson is huge). We didn't have (wide receiver) Nayvon (Reid) tonight, as you noticed, but we still came through. Those two guys are dynamic, Devonte and Ahmik. It's a nice combo."
You won't get any argument on that point from anyone associated with the Xaverian program.
Hawks coach Al Fornaro might have put it best when he said, "Speed, you either have it or you're chasing it. That's not an excuse. It's the truth. The way you negate speed is you don't let it get to the second level without the other person touching you. Then it becomes a track meet, and we're not going to win many track meets."
More notes and observations from Brockton's win:
— Brockton offensive coordinator Chris Brennan deserves a lot of credit for what he has constructed with that side of the ball..
Traditionally an I-formation program that occasionally mixes in spread principles, Brockton has implemented a scheme this season that does its best to involve as many playmakers as possible.
With a talent like Watterson returning, some wondered if it didn't make more sense to go back to the I and simply pound the rock. However, that strategy only worked sparingly in recent years against the tougher opponents on the schedule.
Even with a quarterback in Medley who only had one start under his belt coming into the season and ran the single-wing as a freshman, Brennan and Colombo stuck with an offense that has found an identity.
"Our offense, I'll tell you, we've been scoring points," said Colombo, whose team is now averaging 30.8 points per game in five contests against Duxbury, Lynn Classical, Natick, Everett, and Xaverian. "It's just a matter of putting the whole game together. Tonight, we did. But, no, I'm not surprised. Our offense, we can move the ball."
The chemistry between Medley and Watterson stuck out the most. Although Medley made some key throws in the rainy, windy conditions, including a 27-yard touchdown to Noah Olowu in the second quarter, the running game was what drove the offense.
"Not to be sarcastic, but every time (Medley) had positive yardage, he read it right, and every time he didn't, he didn't," explained Fornaro. "We did a little bit better in the second half early on by attacking the mesh. The power-read out of the (shotgun) is very similar to a front-side veer. He's going to ride that guy as he comes across. They block down, pull the backside guard. (The quarterback is) reading the defensive end. If the end is upfield, (the quarterback) is going to keep the ball. If the end crashes, (the quarterback) is going to hand off. It's not a guessing game. We practice to attack it."
But as Colombo noted, Medley's understanding of those types of plays has improved each week. The 5-foot-8, 165-pounder did an excellent job of disguising where the ball would end up until it was too late.
"It's very important (to be able to execute at that high level)." Medley said. "Without the execution, the line blocking, the running backs knowing the assignments, everyone knowing what they need to do, this wouldn't have been possible. This was a great team effort. More to see from Brockton."
"I know when he gives it to me. I feel it in my gut," Watterson said. "He just leaves it there and I take off with it. when he pulls it, I already know, sell my fake, hit the hole."
Watterson's touchdown runs came from 60, 68, and 62 yards out. Medley had a 63-yarder in the fourth quarter that extended the lead to 34-21. Very early on, the Boxers knew the big plays were there to be had.
"They had some linebackers that were coming up and blitzing, but when they didn't blitz, we had the right blocking, the hole opened wide up, and I just took it," Watterson said.
— Both teams came in with 1-3 records and precarious chances to make the Div. 1 South playoffs.
You don't see that often with this rivalry, but Colombo noted that the Boxers had been there before. In his postgame speech to his players, he remarked that he was wearing a hat from 2008, when Brockton opened with a 1-3 record, but rallied to make it to Gillette Stadium before losing the Super Bowl to BC High.
Even with the early setbacks, Colombo feels the win over Xaverian gives his players a confidence boost that it can use to springboard against the remainder of the schedule.
"Like I said, these guys, our backs were against the wall," Colombo said. "We needed to turn things around, and this win is huge, because it tells us that we can beat good teams in big games. Wherever we end up — hopefully we get in the playoff — I don't think people are going to want to match up with us."
For Fornaro and Co., next week the Hawks take on St. John's of Shrewsbury in a game where they will be heavy underdogs.
"Tomorrow, (the players are) going to be very sad, as they should be," Fornaro said. "I don't know how anybody else does it at their house, but now is not the time for us to beat our kids up watching film. We watch it as a learning experience. (We have to) correct our mistakes. We had a number of mistakes where we made plays. It's not just make a mistake and make a big play for them. It was that they might have been going the other way, or whatever.
"You don't want to lose the team. I told them from the get-go all I want to do is get better every week, compete, and finish. That's always what we've wanted to do here. We take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves."
Fornaro then made a familiar reference to another coach on Route 1 South.
"Not to quote the guy down the street, (but) we've got to coach better, we've got to play better."
— Another game ball for the Brockton coaching staff has to go to defensive coordinator Carlito Weaver.
The Boxers had allowed 35, 36, and 48 points in their three losses, but forced the Hawks into difficult situations all night.
Although Xaverian had success running the ball with sophomore Joe Kelcourse, who finished with 115 yards on 22 carries, the Hawks were forced into many low-percentage throws.
The Boxers loaded the box, brought pressure from multiple spots, and played a lot of man coverage on the outside with little to no safety help. That led to Xaverian taking some deep shots that were open at times, but difficult to complete, especially in the subpar conditions.
"(Xaverian quarterback) Michael (Berluti) threw the ball well and did some nice things. It's not necessarily our forte, but at least we know we can do it," Fornaro said. "Always, we'd like to do it when we want to do it, but sometimes you have to do that in certain situations."
With Xaverian playing from a multi-score deficit for most of the game, Xaverian was forced to throw more than is in its comfort zone, as Berluti completed 14-of-33 passes for 141 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. His scoring toss was an 18-yarder to Demetri Tsoumbanos that helped pull the Hawks to within 28-21 with 6:33 to play.
But the biggest defensive play for the Boxers came late in the first half. Down 21-7 with two minutes to go, Xaverian tried a screen from its own 44. Brockton defensive end Devin Decarvalho read it perfectly, leapt up, intercepted the pass, and returned it to the Xaverian 3-yard line.
Although the Boxers moved backwards with a false start, two negative runs and a holding penalty, Medley and Olowu cashed in on the turnover when the quarterback floated an out pass to the junior, who ran in for the backbreaking score.
For a defense that has taken a lot of heat over the course of the season, the ability to complement the offense was satisfying for the Boxers, who host Durfee next week.