Saturday, December 3, 2016

RECAP: East Bridgewater Capitalizes on St. Mary's Turnovers in D3A Championship

East Bridgewater's Greg Plunkett breaks away for a touchdown in his team's D3A state title game win against St. Mary's.
By Jason Siegel (@jasiegel1821)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- The East Bridgewater Vikings used a dominant defense to dispatch the St. Mary’s Spartans, 34-8, in the MIAA Division 3A State Super Bowl on Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

In the first half, the game was headlined by turnovers and tough, energetic defenses.

St. Mary’s (12-1) went three-and-out on their first drive, as East Bridgewater’s (11-2) swarming defense prevented the Spartans from going anywhere.

St. Mary’s lined up to punt with the ball on their own 20-yard line. The snap went over the head of the punter, and junior Joe Donahue recovered the football for East Bridgewater at the St. Mary’s 1-yard line.

“The quarterback was bobbling (the ball), and I just took it right out,” Donahue said of his first fumble recovery.

Just two plays later, however, the Vikings coughed up the football, and senior Brendon Donahue recovered the football for St. Mary’s.

Both offenses struggled to move the ball in the first quarter. The two teams combined for a total of 9 yards of offense in the first period.

East Bridgewater head coach Shawn Tarpey said that seeing his defense step up early was a sign of good things to come for the Vikings.

“When I saw how (the Spartans) couldn’t move the ball early in the game, I knew that that was a really good indication,” Tarpey said after having a moment with the state championship trophy.

The second quarter was not much better for the two offenses. East Bridgewater quarterback Liam LeVangie was intercepted by junior Marlon Scott, the first of two picks on the day by Scott.

The Spartans began to find a rhythm on offense on the ensuing possession. Using the entire field and a combination of runs and passes, St. Mary’s brought the ball down to the East Bridgewater 30-yard line.

On 1st-and-10 from the 30-yard line, EB’s Donahue made another momentum and game-changing play. The junior’s 70-yard scoop-n-score provided the first points of the day. David Trask’s extra point gave East Bridgewater a 7-0 lead with 4:48 remaining in the first half.

St. Mary’s continued to find some success moving the ball. Senior quarterback Marcus Atkins connected with junior Calvin Johnson for a 39-yard completion.

The Spartans’ drive ended abruptly when Kevin Aylward intercepted Atkins.

Atkins got revenge a few minutes later, when he picked off a LeVangie pass with the first quarter winding down.

By the end of the first half, the two teams had nearly combined for as many turnovers (6) as points (7).

Tarpey credited St. Mary’s defense for his team’s offensive struggles in the first half.

“We couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Tarpey said after the game. “(St. Mary’s) really had us off balance. We needed to settle down… I wasn’t feeling too great about that first half (as the offensive play caller).

The Vikings were able to find a rhythm on offense in the third quarter. Using a balanced offensive attack, East Bridgewater moved methodically down the field. The drive culminated with a 2-yard run by LeVangie. Trask’s PAT gave East Bridgewater a 14-0 lead with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter.

Coach Tarpey said that once his team’s running game got going, the entire offense began to click.

“Once we settled down, and once we got a couple things going on the ground, that opened up some pass stuff for us,” Tarpey said.

On the next play from scrimmage, EB’s Donahue came up with his third fumble recovery of the day, sending a St. Mary’s offense that had scored at least 35 points in all but one of their previous 12 games this season back to the sideline with a goose egg still showing under their name on the Gillette Stadium scoreboard.

The Vikings took full advantage of the St. Mary’s miscue. Levangie found senior tight end Michael Khoury wide open over middle for a 30-yard touchdown. Trask’s extra point sailed through the uprights, giving East Bridgewater a 21-0 lead with 40 seconds remaining in the third period.

The fourth quarter began just like the first quarter: with a Spartan turnover. East Bridgewater senior Greg Plunkett jumped in front of a Spartan receiver and intercepted Atkins. The pick was the fifth turnover of the game for St. Mary’s.

Just one play later, however, the Spartans snatched the ball right back. Scott came up with his second interception of the day.

This time, the Spartans capitalized on Scott’s play. Junior running back James Brumfield scored the first points of the day for St. Mary’s. Brumfield would also run it in to successfully complete the two-point conversion, making East Bridgewater lead 21-8.

The Vikings’ offense responded swiftly. Just four plays into the ensuing possession, LeVangie completed a short pass to Plunkett, who broke multiple tackles on his way down the left sideline into the end zone. Trask’s fourth extra point of the day gave East Bridgewater a 28-8 lead with 5:38 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Donahue sealed the deal for East Bridgewater, when he came up with his fourth fumble recovery and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown, making the score 34-8.

“(St. Mary’s) fumbled the snap, and I just grabbed it and took off with it,” Donahue said.

Donahue finished the day with four fumble recoveries, two for touchdowns.

For Donahue, this game was a facsimile of a state championship game when he was an eighth grader, when he recovered four fumbles.

Coach Tarpey was very complimentary of Donahue after the game.

“Joe’s a great kid… He’s a hard-nosed kid, he’s an East Bridgewater kid, he waited for his time to make a play, and he was incredible for us today,” Tarpey said.

Overall, Tarpey was proud of his entire team for the way they played.

“It’s just fantastic. It’s such a credit to our kids,” Tarpey said as East Bridgewater students, citizens, and fans celebrated the victory.

Given that East Bridgewater knocked off an unbeaten team and won a state Super Bowl just one year after a tough loss, the entire East Bridgewater community should be proud, too.

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