Like a finely-tuned Ferrari, the Foxboro High football team has been a powerhouse all season long.

While may have sputtered out of the garage at first, dropping its opening-night non-conference matchup to Milford High, but since then, the Warriors have been a juggernaut, winning nine straight games heading into Saturday’s MIAA Div. 4 quarterfinal game against second-seeded Duxbury High at Veterans Stadium in Quincy.

But every high-performance vehicle needs an engine that powers its journey, and for the 9-1 Warriors, that locomotive is senior running back Dylan Gordon, who has been nothing short of remarkable for Foxboro, seeded third in the MIAA Div. 4 playoffs.

Gordon, who as a junior running back in the pandemic-shortened spring football season, shared the rushing duties with Chris McNamara, returned this fall clearly in top-notch shape, and has proven to have been a singular sensation on both sides of the ball for the Warriors, who won the Davenport Division of the Hockomock League with a perfect 4-0 record for their first outright league title since 2010.

Consider this: the 6-2, 210-pound Gordon scored 19 rushing touchdowns during the regular season, nine more than the next-highest scorer in the league. On the receiving end, Gordon’s teammate, Rashaad Way, led the Hockomock League in TDs with 10, but Gordon had six more trips to the end zone as a receiver, or fourth-best in the league.

Foxboro scored 318 regular-season points in its eight league games, which averaged out to nearly 40 points per game, and Gordon himself scored at least 156 of those points, which included an interception return for a touchdown in the team’s regular-season finale against Oliver Ames (along with four other TDs in the game). To prove that his pick-six in the OA game wasn’t a fluke, Gordon took two more interceptions to the house in the Warriors’ playoff opener Nov. 5, including an INT on Oliver Ames’ very first offensive play of the game.

“He’s been a once-in-a-lifetime running back for us here,” said his football head coach, the legendary Jack Marinelli. “We’ve had some good ones, but I can’t recollect anyone putting up the numbers he does consistently.

“I would say in the 40 years I’ve been here, to me, he’s the Tom Nalen of the skill-set for us,” Marinelli added. “And that was a guy that played at BC and played 15 years in the NFL as an offensive center. To me, Dylan is the epitome as a running back with Tommy.”

“We’ve been blessed with some very talented running backs (at Foxboro),” Martinelli added. “And I would be remiss if I left any out, but Dylan’s a combination of all the great ones in the past that we’ve had, with breakaway speed and scoring ability and mental toughness – there have been kids that I’ve had here that were home run-type kids, but I have to say, (Dylan’s) numbers are startling from my perspective.”

Gordon’s transformation from being the co-running back in the spring season to a superstar talent could not have been foreseen back then, as the Warriors’ season was curtailed from 11 games to five by pandemic outbreaks, so according to Martinelli, it was going to be hard for Gordon “to let us know what his potential was going to be.”

But as the fall season loomed, Martinelli was confident that Gordon “was going to be start-to-finish this year from square one” at the running-back position.

Realizing the opportunity that awaited him and hoping to reward the confidence that the coaching staff had in him, Gordon committed to a training regimen that obviously paid off in spades this season, as his explosiveness and dexterity have improved to such an extent that he has become perhaps the preeminent all-around player in the commonwealth.

“For sure, especially after last season, I knew that I was going into my senior year, and I wanted to make it my best senior year possible,” Gordon recalled. “A big factor would be getting strength and conditioning, along with speed and agility — that was a big focus in the offseason. I worked hard at that, and I know that my teammates did too, because a lot of players look so much more explosive this year, and that’s a big part of our success.”

Martinelli immediately noticed the improvement in Gordon’s fitness during training camp. “Most definitely, it was kind of an uncanny transformation for him,” Martinelli said. “Not that all the natural tools that he had were visible, but the increased strength and speed made him one of the elite backs in the state, as far as I’m concerned.”

Gordon has been playing ball for as long as he can remember. “It all goes back to elementary school, Pop Warner days,” Gordon recalled. “I started out at a young age, and my dad has been my coach throughout. I owe him for the player and man I am today; he’s been a big part of my football career, he’s been there since day one.”

Gordon played football, basketball, and baseball along the way, although after playing baseball his freshman year at Foxboro, he gave up the sport in order to concentrate on his football abilities.

Gordon, who has committed to playing football at Bowdoin College in Maine, did not lose his love for basketball, however, and has been a big part of coach Jonathan Gibbs’ Warriors hoop program, even though Gordon doesn’t plan to continue his basketball career after high school.

“I played basketball my whole life,” Gordon said. “I can’t remember a time I didn’t have a basketball in my hand, but if I had to make a choice (about which sport I like better), I couldn’t make a choice, because it depends on the season I’m playing.

“The likelihood of not playing basketball (in college) will hit me pretty hard, but I’m glad to be playing a sport. Playing a sport in college is a grind, so playing two would take the focus off of one, especially if they’re back-to-back; one may hinder my participation in each other.”

Still, Gordon is equally admired for his basketball skills as he is for his football skills.

“As a sophomore on varsity, (Dylan) was more of a swing guy, because we had a really talented senior class,” Gibbs recalls. “He stepped in last year on an inexperienced team, became a Hockomock League All-Star (leading the team with 16 points per game), and we’re looking for him to continue. He’s a captain, the leading returning scorer in the Davenport, and we’re expecting big things.

“The big thing with Dylan is that he’s a coach’s dream, in terms of his commitment and work ethic,” Gibbs said. “To watch him develop and evolve has been so fun to watch; he’s set the blueprint, and a great role model for kids in Foxboro for any sport . . . He made a great commitment to strength and conditioning, putting the work in all year long, and he really, really works hard at it. A lot of kids say that they do, but Dylan really does, and he’s an easy kid to root for.”

“When you challenge the guys to make that commitment, you see him do it — a kid who has put in the effort and gotten the result,” Gibbs added. “I’m having a lot of fun watching him on the football field, and can’t wait for his basketball year; he really does deserve it, he’s a terrific student, and I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Gordon is humble and well-spoken, and freely admits that his accomplishments are a by-product of his teammates and their commitment.

“Well, my goal this year, one of my big ones, was to lead the league in TDs,” Gordon said, “but I’d be lying if I said I thought I’d be leading (the league) by this much. But most of it goes to my O(ffensive)-line; they open up the lanes, and I just go through them, and I owe them everything.”

“Dylan simply has a good offensive line in front of him,” Martinelli confirms. “Coach Bryan Carew has done a great job with the offense, melding Dylan’s running ability with his pass-catching abilities, to mesh with the QB’s abilities, combining his running ability and clicking on all cylinders. I’m certainly not surprised about what he’s done, but the numbers are kind of mind-boggling to us.”

Gordon’s quarterback is no slouch, either, on this offensive powerhouse. Senior Tom Marcucella also led the Hockomock in passing TDs with 19, but his synchronicity with Gordon is not a coincidence.

“He’s been one of my best buddies my whole life,” Gordon says of Marcucella. “We’ve been playing basically our whole lives; he left the game for a while and got back into it in eighth grade, and we help each other grow. I like to think he makes me a better running back and I like to think I make him a better passer. Our relationship, I wouldn’t change for the world — I hope that it can bring a Super Bowl title.”

Strength and conditioning are all well and good, but Gordon apparently has innate skills that make him a top athlete in both sports.

“He is outstanding at driving to the basket, getting to the rim, finishing at the rim, and he has an incredible knack at finishing around the basket,” Gibbs said. “He drives into the lane, doesn’t appear to have an advantage on defender, but finds room, and finds a way to finish in traffic with multiple defenders on him.

“He has an incredible ability to finish, to get to the free-throw line. It’s the same abilities as a running back. Fearlessness — one of his biggest strengths is his confidence; he always believes that he can score, that he can get a basket, and wants to have the ball in his hands.”

“A lot of that comes back to the strength component,” Gordon admits. “Creating space for yourself; inside, I know it’s there, and I can make my own space, and it’s similar to evading tacklers. In the sense that you have to create space, with a stiff-arm or a juke, it comes down to the strength training in the offseason, and that’s why I made it a huge focal point in the offseason.”

There is certainly a common denominator for Gordon in both sports, though, and on both sides of the ball. “I just like getting the ball in my hands, to be honest,” Gordon said. “I feel that I can make a lot happen; it doesn’t really matter, I just want to help the team win in as many ways as I can.”

Gordon knew coming into this fall season that there was a chance that this Warriors squad could be extraordinary.

“Oh yeah, absolutely, I had no doubt (that Foxboro would be good),” Gordon said. “In fact, I thought we had too much confidence and that may have showed during our week-one loss to Milford. Maybe we underestimated the opponent, we may have been overconfident, but it served as a wake-up call.

“We know that we can be special, but we knew that we had to work for it, that it wouldn’t be easy, and (we need to) play every game the same. We’ve done a great job of that since, and if we keep on doing that, we have a good shot at it.”

“It” is the idea of Foxboro’s football team perhaps getting to play in a Super Bowl not only a short bus ride away, but a game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro’s same zip code, just 4.4 miles from the high school. The Warriors’ last state title dates back to 2006, when Gordon was just a toddler.

“It’s always in the back of our minds, that’s the goal,” Gordon admits. “We want to be there at Gillette in the end, but we are all focused on taking it one game at a time. We can’t look ahead at the later rounds; we’re focusing on (the next game). We know that if we look ahead, before we can blink an eye it could be over, and we won’t even get to think about Gillette.”

So focus on (the next opponent); that should give us a better chance.”

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