Senior linemen led the way for Billerica High football in Thanksgiving win

Between them, they weigh more than 600 pounds and stand well over 12 feet high.

Senior linemen John Colby and Keith Johnston have always had plenty of responsibilities on the football field, but Thursday’s Merrimack Valley Conference championship tilt against Chelmsford gave the veterans and their linemates a little extra work to do.

Late in the first half, senior quarterback JT Green was clearly slowed by a shoulder injury. Early in the second half, he left the game for good.

“We came into this game wanting to pass the ball a lot, but (Green) hurt his shoulder and we weren’t able to,” said Colby. “We just had to come down and run the ball and that’s what we did. We inflicted our will on them and we were able hold them and got the win.”

“It was a battle up front,” said Johnston. “They have some big dudes, but we just went out there and we dominated. We battled as hard as we could and got the job done. It was a hell of a battle.”

Not only did the Billerica offensive line have to work hard to clear openings for the running game, but the defensive wall had to be extra stingy with the BMHS offense not as potent as it usually is.

“They’re great,” said junior Mike Murnane, who played quarterback in Green’s absence, about the line. “They all put in the work. The other day we had practice at five in the morning. I don’t think any other team in the MVC has worked as hard as we have. We put in the work and it shows.”

While things didn’t certainly come easy in the Thanksgiving Day showdown, the Billerica line came through in a big way. After a 42-yard pass play, Chelmsford had the ball at the BMHS 5-yard line in the final minute of the game, but couldn’t score and the Indians won, 20-14.

“They made a big play,” said Colby. “We just had to make a bigger play and that’s what we did. We stopped them. They weren’t going to score no matter what.”

Chelmsford tried four straight passing plays from the 5, partly because they were out of timeouts and partly because rushing yards were very difficult to come by.

“We’re going to win games on the offensive and defensive line,” Billerica coach Duane Sigsbury said. “(Chelmsford) talked all week about how good their offensive and defensive lines were and they got the big article in the paper, but our guys showed who the better offensive and defensive lines were today.”

On Thursday, the two teams combined for more than 70 running plays which means a lot of work in the trenches for Colby, Johnston and the rest of the BMHS linemen, a group that includes junior Cole Dillon, junior Tyler Bornstein, sophomore Dan Moore and senior Scott Einarson.

“Most of us have been playing with each other for a while now and we just have that connection,” Colby said. “We’re all big, we’re all strong and we just know what we’re doing. So we were able to hold up the front line and they had to bounce it outside which gives our secondary and our linebackers a chance to make tackles.”

Late in the game, Johnston went out with a knee injury, but returned shortly thereafter.

“He’s a tough man,” Colby said about Johnston, who actually had a rushing touchdown early in the season. “He’s been dealing with a shoulder problem all year, but he hasn’t missed any games and he’s barely missed any snaps. He’s always out there working.”

“I just put it all on the line,” Johnston said. “Last game, I just went out there and battled as hard as I could.”

Sigsbury said the Indians will miss the two senior linemen.

“Studs, those guys are studs,” he said. “They’ve been playing varsity minutes since their freshman year. (Colby) had serious knee injuries and missed his sophomore year, but really came back strong and Keith is a man among boys. We’re able to free up our linebackers because of those guys up front. “

“We’re going to miss them a lot next year,” Murnane added. “Those two are our senior boys, they ran this offense. They are great players.”