The Natick football team was built for games like this.
With the initial bitter cold of the fall making conditions difficult for both teams, the Redhawks used their punishing running game and ferocious defense to power its way past Wellesley and into the program’s first Division 2 South final with a 30-0 victory in Friday. Natick will face Mansfield for the sectional title next weekend.
“We have ton of respect for that program and that coaching staff, and we knew it was going to be a battle,” said Natick coach Mark Mortarelli, whose team survived a 14-13 decision against their BSC Carey rivals in the regular season. “Twice in one season is not easy to do.”
Jalyn Aponte rushed for 265 yards and four touchdowns for the top-seeded Redhawks (9-0) and the defense kept the opposing offense off the board for the second straight week to set up a meeting with either Mansfield or King Philip.
Natick forced the No. 4 Raiders (7-2) into four turnovers – interceptions by Jake Dunlap, TJ Dalicandro and Aedan Knowlton and a fumble recovery by Aidan Brogan.
“Our defense is just lights out right now and the way we are playing I don’t think any offense can beat us,” said Natick senior captain Felix Ferrucci. “We keep grinding every day. We’re connected and have bonded into a strong defense and it showed tonight.”
Aponte’s performance was his second straight of over 200 yards and four scores after shredding Bridgewater-Raynham for 230, and he was able to get loose despite Wellesley focusing on stopping the run as Natick was again without starting quarterback Will Lederman due to injury and attempted just five passes with Colby LeBlanc under center.
Aponte made his presence felt just 2:05 in when Wellesley appeared to have him bottled up on the sideline, but he broke a tackle and motored away from the Raider defense for a 75-yard score. Natick led just 7-0 at halftime, however, squandering three consecutive trips inside the Wellesley 25.
The field position edge finally paid dividends in the second half, though. After a short Sam Waltzman field goal increased the margin to 10-0, Aponte visited the end zone on the next three possessions, scoring from 40, 3 and 20 yards out to pull away from the Raiders.
“We wanted to run the ball and we knew they were going to play man and load the box. We felt like if we could get Terrence (Cherry) and Jalyn to the next level we could get some long runs,” said Mortarelli. “Jalyn is Jalyn. He is a going to run hard and we are going to keep feeding him, and we have a nice big line up front firing off the ball.”