Sophomore Malachi Burke runs for two touchdowns as Highlanders go 2-2
WORCESTER – In the previous two weeks Doherty’s football team went 1-1 in a pair of tied games decided by threes and twos, so it’s safe to say a resounding victory in favor of the Highlanders could boost morale. .
With memories of recent challenges still strong, Doherty managed to show his resilience in Saturday’s game against Tantasqua Regional, playing solidly at both ends of the court in a 28-0 win at Commerce Bank Field at Foley Stadium.
The Highlanders (2-2) received outstanding play from a number of individuals. Second-year running back Malachi Burke had rushing touchdowns for 20 and 3 yards. His first TD turned out to be the winner.
Senior quarterback Jackson Burden was solid throughout the game and punctuated his efforts with a 14-yard TD throw to senior winger Messiah Attakorah in the second quarter. Senior running back Phil Johnson completed a 7-yard run in the third inning. Senior kicker Maxwell Hanus went 4 for 4 on extra kicks.
Doherty’s coach, Sean Mulcahy, was happy to see his team bounce back with a solid effort throughout the game.
“Our goal was to bring together four quarters of football for the first time,” Mulcahy said. “For the most part I thought we did, although we didn’t start too strong defensively. But once we finally got a good save, I felt we were really competitive. Our captains did a good job preparing our team this week, especially after suffering a tough loss (21-19 against Marlboro).”
“We have a lot of inexperience starting for the first time – but no excuses – we just had to improve, and I think we did that,” added Mulcahy.
Ball control is an advantage for Doherty
Doherty was marked throughout by his ball control. For example, the Warriors, who fell 0-4, only had the ball once in the second half. That included zero possession in the fourth quarter.
The Highlanders had the ball for the first 7:48 of the third quarter and capped the run with Johnson’s scorer in the middle. Tantasqua got the ball back and sandwiched five plays around a Doherty penalty before kicking in. The Warriors only advanced 14 yards.
“Ball control was key, but not everything was perfect,” Mulcahy said. “I thought our backs were running strong and we had some early downs. It opened up the passing game a bit for Jackson. Messiah got involved, and that was good.
“We’re tough to defend when we can spread the ball like we did today. If we’re a bit like giving it to one guy, I think we’re easier to understand.”
Doherty’s Attack Key Attakorah
Attakorah was a threat throughout the game in the open field and worked well with Burden.
“Jackson is a transfer, and the first day he came to train, we hit it off,” Attakorah said, “In the summer we worked together. In games, we developed a connection. He sees me open, and I trust him, I hope he can make the throw, he’s a great player.
“Today we came to make a statement and played all four quarters,” Attakorah added. “We’re going to capitalize on this win. We’re not finished. We have Wachusett next, and we’ll be ready.”
The Highlanders’ first TD provided a boost. Doherty then punted and the Warriors fumbled, senior Colin Wanat recovering the loose ball. Five plays later, Burke found an opening on the right side and rushed into the end zone for a TD.
Senior Myzel Vilbrun recovered a fumble for Doherty in the second quarter. Four plays later, Burke scored again on a 3-yard flurry down the middle.
Tantasqua junior running back Abner Colon-Martinez carried the ball 10 times on the Warriors’ first possession. However, the drive, which covered 54 yards and lasted nearly six minutes, ran out of steam at Doherty’s 21-yard line.
—Contact Craig Holt at [email protected]