Frontier Regional holds off Ludlow, 30-29

For The Gazette
Published: 11/15/2019 11:04:06 PM
Modified: 11/15/2019 11:03:53 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Not even a no-stakes non-playoff football game was going to stop Frontier Regional and Ludlow from putting on quite the entertaining show Friday night.

The game featured four lead changes and 646 yards of total offense, before the Red Hawks finally nosed in front early in the fourth quarter, stopped Ludlow just outside the red zone, and killed off the last three minutes of the clock to post a thrilling 30-29 victory.

Ito McMillan piled up 167 yards on 27 carries with three touchdowns, the last coming with 9 minutes, 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter that pulled the Red Hawks to within 29-28. He then cashed in the two-point conversion run for the one-point lead that Frontier made stand right to the end.

The senior back now checks in at 976 yards for the season entering the Thanksgiving eve matchup with Mohawk Trail Regional.

“We felt like we didn’t play our best at Chicopee. We could have been a lot better,” said McMillan, looking back at last week’s Western Massachusetts Division 7 semifinal loss. “This is a big statement, showing we can compete with the bigger teams in a higher division than us. We’re not like a little wrinkle or a nuisance. We’re gonna fight hard and make you work.”

Frontier (7-3) started the night in fine field position at its own 44 and moved 56 yards in 11 plays, getting a 1-yard TD run and a two-pointer by McMillan to jump in front 8-0 with 7:10 to play in the first.

The Lions played the long-field game just as well, with a 14-play, 72-yard march that lasted 7:19 and didn’t end until the first play of the second quarter. Quarterback Chris Fogg slashed the middle for a 1-yard scoring run, and Michael Gilrein followed with the two-pointer for an 8-8 tie.

Fogg, who didn’t throw an incompletion, came out gunning on the next series and dropped a beauty into the hands of the streaking Jamonte Beckett for a 73-yard TD connection. Tim Del Negro’s extra-point kick put the visitors up 15-8.

The teams then endured a stretch of three straight lost fumbles, two by Frontier and one by Ludlow, before Fogg dropped a 36-yard punt on the Red Hawks’ 4-yard line. That prompted a 10-play, 96-yard drive, keyed by 29 rushing yards by Josh Semaski and completions of 31 and 21 yards from Garrett DeForest to McMillan. From the Ludlow 22, DeForest (3 of 6 passing, 74 yards) arched a touchdown pass to a leaping Donovan Hoffman in the back-right corner of the end zone, bringing Frontier back to within 15-14 with 53 seconds to go.

The Red Hawks then missed a chance to go in front, recovering the onside kick and getting a 51-yard slalom by DeForest to put the ball at the Ludlow 4. With no timeouts left and choosing not to spike the ball, Frontier allowed the clock to run out at the 1-yard line to go into the half down by one.

Fogg and Beckett were right back at it at the top of the second half, this time converting on third-and-21 with a 55-yard touchdown connection. A bad snap on the extra-point attempt left the score at 21-14.

This time it was Frontier’s turn to strike quickly, with a 55-yard drive spiced by gains of 21 yards by McMillan and 12 yards by DeForest. McMillan went the final 7 yards for the score, then added the two-pointer for a 22-21 Frontier lead with 4:53 to play in the third.

Ludlow (2-8) suffered a tough loss when Fogg left the game after a 20-yard scramble. Carson Kowalski entered the game at quarterback and immediately scored from 11 yards out, then caught Fogg’s two-point conversion pass to put the Lions up, 29-22, with 2:13 on the clock.

McMillan then took center stage on the Hawks’ next series, carrying seven times for 53 yards and punching in his third score, a 2-yard run. With his two-point conversion, Frontier had the lead back, for good as it turned out, at 30-29.

The Hawks’ defense then protected it, with Jacob Bryant and Jackie Phong combining to drop Kowalski for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-7 at the Frontier 22. The hosts took over with 2:54 to play and worked around all three Ludlow timeouts, getting key gains of 11 and 14 yards by McMillan, to finally grind out the clock.

“We put together those long sustained drives, just running the football and see what happens,” Frontier coach Don Gordon said. “We came from behind twice, and defensively we stepped up when we had to.”

Frontier totaled 266 rushing yards, with DeForest and Semaski each contributing 50 yards. McMillan also caught two passes for 52 yards.

Fogg finished 6 of 6 for 159 yards, with Beckett catching three of those for 131 yards and two scores. Beckett also led the Lions with 70 yards on the ground.

“We just kind of kept it straight business,” DeForest said. “After a tough loss last week to Chicopee, that still kind of hurts. But there’s nothing better than playing football on Friday nights. This is what we come out here to do.”


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