RHAM’s #2 Max Nylen carries the ball as #44 Chase Ayen leads the way during the Raptors 41-12 victory over Bacon Academy on Thanksgiving.
Playing against each other for the first time three years, RHAM football defeated Bacon Academy 41-12 to win the “Battle for the Rail” under a glaring sun on Thanksgiving.
The Raptors ran for 335 yards and five touchdowns on the ground to defeat the Bobcats and finish the regular season at 7-3, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in program history. .
“It was very important for us to defend The Rail,” RHAM head coach Dakota Fleming said. “It’s the town that is right next to us and we want to show that we have a better football team.”
As he has done all season, senior Max Nylen set the tone early and often in the game, rushing for 175 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.
“It was a great way to leave this field as a player,” Nylen said. “We definitely wanted to keep The Rail at RHAM.”
On the fourth play of the game, Nylen took a direct snap and darted around the left end for a 52-yard score.
Following a fumble recovery by Davion Hernandez, Michael Marques increased the lead to 13-0 when he scored a 32-yard rushing touchdown with 8:02 to play in the first quarter.
Marques finished with 141 yards on 14 carries.
Fleming credited his offensive line for paving the way for his one-two backfield punch of Nylen and Marques.
Offensive linemen Anthony Wursthorn, Caden Bellmore, Thiago Delacruz, Brody Magnanini, Jack Smith, and tight end Tommy Puetzer provided running lanes for the two productive backs to run through.
“Those guys up front have done a heck of a job all year,” added Fleming. “They’ve really improved and embraced everything that we taught and preached.”
On the first play of the second quarter, quarterback Brady Hulland made it 20-0 when he followed lead blockers around the right end to score from 10-yards out.
After a Bacon touchdown, Nylen scored his second, cutting through the heart of the Bobcats defense for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Raptors a comfortable 27-6 lead at the break.
Nylen was a freshman the last time the two neighboring teams played one another in 2019—a game Bacon won 32-0.
The game in 2020 was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s bout was canceled because Bacon was forced to forfeit due to alleged Title IX violations.
“This game meant a little more than any other game,” said Nylen, who also had seven tackles and a sack on defense. “It’s Thanksgiving morning, we had the biggest crowd we had all year, and because we wanted to avenge that blowout loss our freshman year.”
Bacon entered the game with only one win in their previous nine games this, yet Puetzer said the team approached the game with the same intensity they had all year.
“It was a huge game, a rivalry game, and you never want to take a game for granted,” added Puetzer.
In the second half, RHAM’s defense ended any doubt of a comeback when Puetzer intercepted a deflected screen pass and scored from three yards out with 7:53 left in the third quarter.
Puetzer gave credit to Smith for deflecting the ball in his arms, adding, “I looked up, saw the ball, grabbed it, and ran.”
Fleming said the team had been trying to get Puetzer in the end zone all year, joking, “In his own Tommy-Way, he found a way in.”
Nylen put the finishing touches on the victory with his third rushing touchdown, giving him a total of 23 touchdowns.
Nylen’s 23 all-purpose touchdowns is a single season program record and his 37-career touchdowns broke another program record.
Fleming said that Nylen has been everything you would want in a player and leader, adding, “He’s had a great career; he’s been a great kid.”
The third-year coach credited his entire senior class for propelling the program to the playoffs for the first time.
“It takes leaders on the football team as players in order to turn a program around and they have done that,” said Fleming.
“Everyone bought in and it showed and it’s because of them. All of our success goes out to that senior group.”
Nylen, Marques, Puetzer and Logan Topulos were the team’s four captains this fall.
Topulos tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in the team’s first scrimmage this fall and missed the entire season until Thanksgiving when he suited up.
After months of rehab, Topulos was able to get on the field for the team’s final snap at RHAM High School, lining up behind Hulland in Victory Formation.
Fleming called Topulos an extremely hard worker.
“We thought it was important to get him on the field with the other guys because he may never play another football game again,” added Fleming. “We’ve learned a lot from him and his demeanor.”
Fleming said the playoff berth and other momentous accomplishments this season could only have happened if everyone bought into the idea of being a family.
“We are a brotherhood here,” added Fleming. “We all love each other and we all care for each other and that showed all season.”
On Tuesday, RHAM’s historic season came to an end when they lost Johnathan Law in the first round of the Class M playoffs.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin