For the third consecutive year under Coach Derek Almeida '98 Div-6 FHS defeated Div-3 Dartmouth High School in an exciting Thanksgiving thriller that came down to a last second field goal. The following is the Standard-Times article by Sports Editor Laurie Los. (S-T Photo: Sophomore Grant Darmafol boots the winning 42 yard field goal with two seconds left.)
by Laurie Los Lee S-T Sports Editor 11/23/23
DARTMOUTH — Grant Darmofal’s first career field goal will be talked about for years to come. With two seconds left and the game tied at 21, the Fairhaven sophomore lined up and split the uprights with a 42-yard field goal to lift the Blue Devils to a thrilling 24-21 victory over Dartmouth in front of a packed house at Dartmouth Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving morning. “That kick was huge,” said Fairhaven junior running back Justin Marques. “I didn’t know he had it in him. He won us the game right there.” Darmofal added, “I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it, but I just kicked it and it was perfect. It was crazy. That was awesome.”
Darmofal started the year as Fairhaven’s place kicker, but stopped kicking PATs around the third week as he battled a leg injury. “I think he was overcompensating earlier in the year and he was missing a lot,” said Fairhaven head coach Derek Almeida. “We made the switch for PATs (to Jackson Dane), but every week Grant practiced field goals because he has a strong leg. “I trusted he was going to make that field goal. We set the drive up. I said to coach (Scott) Francis, ‘How close do we need to get for Grant?’ That was the plan; to get close enough to kick it to win it.”
Dartmouth head coach Rick White added, “We traded punches for four quarters and that was a long kick. It was a great kick — right down the middle for 42 yards.”
With the Div. 6 Super Bowl on the horizon, Fairhaven was determined to give Dartmouth its best shot with the Blue Devils playing their starters. “We wanted to win the football game, but we weren’t going to risk putting someone in that was injured,” Almeida said. “The tradition of the game means so much to me and it means so much to these kids and these seniors. That’s been our mentality all year. We’re just trying to get better every week. You’re going up against a phenomenal team that is really going to test you and make you get better. You get better by playing today. To me this is a way to get better for our next one.”
Most of Fairhaven’s starters played the first half and Marques, the area’s leading scorer, played the entire game on offense. He carried the ball 22 times for 139 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. “We wanted to win this game all season,” Marques said. “I just wanted to go out there and ground and pound.” Fairhaven backup quarterback Cameron Burke led the Blue Devils on three scoring drives in the second half and scored himself on an 11-yard run. Burke also had an interception on defense that ended a scoring threat by Dartmouth in the third quarter.
“Their backup quarterback came in and did a really nice job,” White said. “He was probably the difference in the game. He made some big plays". “Our guys are disappointed in the ending, but it was a great game. Coming out of the break and not scoring was the difference in the game. That was a bad interception at a bad time.”
Dartmouth went ahead 21-15 on a 49-yard scoring strike from junior quarterback Jackson Hart to junior Markus Andrews with 8:21 to play.
Fairhaven responded on its next offensive play when Marques broke free for a 45-yard scamper to make it 21 all. The Blue Devils forced Dartmouth to punt late in the fourth quarter and put together a 42-yard drive to set up Darmofal’s winning kick. “I lost two of these (Thanksgiving Day games) in the same way,” Almeida said of his playing days. “Maybe I got a little revenge today.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
Fairhaven struck first, scoring on a 1-yard TD run with 5:05 left in the first quarter. Dartmouth got on the scoreboard on the opening play of the second quarter when Hart connected with freshman Aidan Gendron on a 5-yard TD pass. Dartmouth’s PAT was blocked.
Dartmouth went ahead 12-7 on a 9-yard run by junior Ray Gramlich and added a 27-yard field goal by senior Louie Freitas with 11 seconds left to take a 15-7 lead into halftime.
“It was crazy,” White said. “It was back and forth and a couple of ties. It was a good high school game. We knew it was going to be tough.”
WHAT IT MEANS
Dartmouth finished the year with an overall record of 9-2. Fairhaven, which improved to 11-1, will face Salem at 3 p.m. on Thursday in the Div. 6 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
“All of the skilled guys are back. It’s kind of a mix of our offensive and defensive line that are coming back. I think we can hit the ground running next year.” — White
“I was on the fence. It was an eight-point game (entering the second half), but you’ve got to trust your kids. Our kids get a lot of reps in practice. Every kid does every drill so when you need to play other kids, they’re ready to go and our kids did that today.” — Almeida