CARVER: Coaches often encourage their players to play with the team name printed on the front of their jerseys, rather than the proverbial last name on the back.
But for the Carver High football team (2-3), it’s more about playing by the quote proudly tagged on their arm and leg sleeves.
Decked out in purple accessories during a 21-0 win over Randolph on Thursday night, the Crusaders continued their season-long dedication to beloved community member Jodi LaFountain, whose renowned “Love Like Crazy” quote was proudly displayed on almost every Carver player who took the field.
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LaFountain, 41, was diagnosed with SMARCA4-deficient undifferentiated sarcoma, a rare form of lung cancer, earlier this year.
“For us to go out there and win for her, it means a lot to us because they have supported our city for years,” said team captain Nate Glover, a senior running back.
Born and raised in Carver, LaFountain is the mother of three children: her oldest daughter, Addison, is a senior at Old Colony; Ella Chase’s son is a sophomore, also at Old Colony; and Pearl is the youngest, a field hockey player at Carver High. Known for providing and participating in fundraisers for programs throughout the city, LaFountain and her husband, Brian, are revered within the team and community circles.
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“We grew up with them our whole lives and we really want to support them right now,” junior wide receiver Robbie Peterson said. “It gives us a lot of motivation. We really want to make the playoffs and win the playoffs for her this year.”
Peterson put the finishing touches on Thursday’s victory with a pair of second-half touchdown receptions, going from 11 yards late in the third quarter to convert a fourth-and-5 and a 12-yarder with 5:20 remaining.
“(The win) feels amazing,” Carver’s first-year head coach Ben Shuffain said. tell me why they’ve never had one before. So, it was pretty cool to beat a really good Randolph team. I mean, they won the Super Bowl last year.”
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Randolph (1-4), who came in scoring just 32 points in the first three games, was without a pair of key two-way cornerback/running back Greg Izedonmwen and lineman Chris Paul on Thursday; both are senior captains.
However, with Thursday night’s much-needed win, the Crusaders have catapulted themselves into a heated league race headed by a currently undefeated Hull side and Cohasset, who scored 48 points over the Crusaders in a lopsided final last week. .
“I think when we’re working flat out, we’re the team that we know we are,” Shuffain said. “I think we can play anybody in our division when we’re doing what we have to do from start to finish of the game.”
Much of that stems from the cohesiveness on the defensive front, which shone from start to finish Thursday.
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Senior McNeely paired up with teammate Patrick Attaya to block a punt back into the Blue Devils’ end zone to record a safety at the 9:24 mark of the second quarter. A fourth-and-12 to Randolph on his own 25 turned into a lead Carver wouldn’t give up.
McNeely then recovered a fumble on Randolph’s next drive, setting up Carver’s offense on their own 39 with 2:53 left in halftime.
“We were physical against a very physical team. When you see Randolph on film, they’re big guys up front and they do a great job shooting the ball,” Shuffain said. “We emphasized toughness all week, strong mentally and physically and playing with some pride this week. I think the boys came to play and did that.”
“It was nice to have it all come together tonight,” Shuffain added. “They didn’t push us.”
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Carver’s defense proceeded to recover two more fumbles in the second half. One by junior defensive end Nathan Dirado at 9:06 of the third quarter, the second by second-year cornerback Darrian King on a mishandled punt to Randolph’s return team with 7:43 left in the quarter.
“We all know our assignments. We know exactly what we’re supposed to do, and we’re doing it,” Glover, who also acts as linebacker, described the key. “We are doing the best we can. It was a great match for everyone in defence”.
King’s recovery opened up an opportunity for Jameson Helms, a speedy youngster, to run to the pylon for his second TD of the night (the first was 12 yards in the second quarter), but a holding penalty voided the play. .
A couple of plays later, youth quarterback Tyler Lennox connected with Peterson (who also contributed defensively with two interceptions) for his second TD throw.
“This offense is made of a lot of weapons,” said Peterson, who singled out Helms, 6-foot-2 junior tight end Derek Lopes, second-year target Jack Balzarini and first-year wide receiver Nate Helms. “But tonight, the offensive line played really well, it gave Ty a lot of time to shoot in the pocket and that’s the only reason I got those touchdowns. It was a great game overall.”
“(Lennox) gained confidence in the second half and it really showed,” added Glover.
The two touchdown passes brought Lennox’s total to eight for the season.
“The key to his success is the line and his ability to code – he’s phenomenal,” said Peterson. “It is absolutely crazy. If I wasn’t able to scramble, this game would be a completely different kind of game.”
Carver now looks ahead to the potential biggest regular-season game of the year, a trip to Hull (4-0) on October 14 at 6:30 p.m.
“(The win is) huge,” Glover said. “We haven’t won a league game for I don’t know how many years. So this is amazing. I’m lovin ‘it.”