Red-hot Wellesley, Max Poirier put up enough points to edge Natick

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WELLESLEY — As Max Poirier made the customary walk across the stream to the field Saturday, the skies appeared somewhat ominous. Wellesley football fans were concerned about an oncoming monsoon, but the senior was focused on his opponent.

Attention to detail pays off.

The wideout finished with 124 total yards, scampering for a late touchdown as Wellesley put the Bay State Conference on notice with a 17-10 victory over Natick on Senior Day.

“I think it’s fitting that we’re honoring our seniors today, because it’s really the seniors that have taken control the last few weeks,” Wellesley coach Jesse Davis said. “We started off 0-3, right? But to win four straight like that, especially against good teams like Natick, who are well coached, these kids are tough.”

For the majority of the first half, the game itself was a stalemate. The torrential rain wreaked havoc, keeping offense at a premium. Bronson Manccini hit a 25-yard field goal to break a scoreless deadlock with 8:35 to play in the second quarter, providing Wellesley (4-3) a 3-0 edge.

Then Wellesley staged a last-minute drive, starting with one play.

In the face of pressure, sophomore quarterback Bobby Shanahan dumped a pass over the middle to Poirier. With blockers in front of him, the senior found a lane and broke off a 64-yard reception, setting up a one-yard touchdown rush by Henry Redgate to make it 10-0 in favor of the Raiders at the half.

Later on, with 3:50 left in the third stanza, Davis and his staff drew up an identical play they did in the opening half – a quick screen pass to Poirier led to a 34-yard reception. Poirier capped the drive shortly thereafter with a one-yard touchdown rush as Wellesley jumped ahead 17-0 with 1:08 to go in the quarter.

“It was the perfect play call,” said Poirier. “D-line, everybody crashing. My line was in front of me, Bobby put it right on me. That’s all I could ask for.”

That’s not to say Natick (4-3) was done. The Redhawks cut it to a 17-3 game with 6:41 remaining on a 34-yard field goal by Nathan Napier. Some thought the ballgame was over, and hastily made their way for the exits as the downpours picked up.

Might have been a mistake. With 2:50 left in regulation, sophomore quarterback Jesse Gagliardi connected with senior Ben Chandler for a 31-yard touchdown reception to make it 17-10.

As the Raiders attempted to ice things, Shanahan made a break for the sideline. Then, the ball was punched from his grasp. The quarterback tumbled to the turf in a scrum, and could only watchas it fell into the hands of a Redhawks tackler. Out of nowhere, Natick had an opportunity for the tying score.

When the pressure was at its highest however, Wellesley’s defensive front held strong, forcing the Redhawks into a turnover on downs to seal it.

Shanahan finished 6-of-10 passing for 127 yards to aid the Raiders, while Jordan St. Louis added an interception in the victory.

“Knowing that we started off 0-3, we worked our asses off for this four-game win streak,” Shanahan said. “We’ve just got to keep it rolling. Stay humble, keep our heads down.”

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