Sunday, November 18, 2018

Springfield Central, Blackstone Valley Tech Clinch Super Bowl Berths

By John McGuirk (@Patsfan1313)

WESTFIELD -- Two intangibles that you cannot teach are athleticism and speed. St. John's found out the hard way that you cannot defend them, either.

Springfield Central proved lethal in both categories as the Golden Eagles rolled past the defending Div. 3 Super Bowl Champion Pioneers, 56-20, in the Division 3 state semifinal held at Westfield State University's Alumni Field Saturday evening.

Winners of 10 straight, Springfield Central (10-1) advances to the state championship versus Tewksbury (a 29-21 victor over Duxbury) at Gillette Stadium.

The Golden Eagles, who defeated the Pioneers 61-34 back in September, had fallen victim to them in the 2017 and 2013 state semifinal contests. Naturally, the overall premise for Central was to rewrite history.  

"The kids were excited for this game tonight," said Springfield Central coach Valdamar Brower. "St. John's had beaten us pretty handily in those two other semis. I thought our coaches did a very good job making the right adjustments at the half, and the kids came out and knew what they had to do."

Leading by nine points at the break, the Golden Eagles broke things wide-open during the final 22 minutes as they out-scored the Pioneers 35-8. Springfield Central finished with 448 yards of offense, while limiting St. John's to 282, including a mere 90 in the closing half.

With a multitude of weapons to choose from, the Golden Eagles spread the wealth around effectively. Dual threat quarterback Isaac Boston was the catalyst. The junior completed 8 of 12 passes for 121 yards and picked up another 86 yards on the ground. He finished with four touchdowns, throwing for a pair and rushing for two more.

"We knew that St. John's wasn't going to just give it to us easy," Boston said. "We were only up nine points in the first half so we wanted to come out strong in the second half. We knew this would be a tough game but we were able to pull away. We've worked all season for moments like this and now we have one more game to go to complete the mission."

Grasping a 21-12 lead at the break, Springfield Central revved up the engines to begin the second, taking it to St. John's on both sides of the ball. The Golden Eagles scored on their first five possessions within that span, turning this one into a rout.

Starting the third quarter with the ball, a Boston 18 yard completion to Myles Bradley set up Kwame Kyles' 34 yard scamper into the end zone to make it 28-12. A few moments later Pioneers quarterback Colin Schofield was picked off by Jaquez Johnson leading to a Boston 39 yard scoring jaunt. On St. John's next possession Schofield (17 of 26 for 168 yards) took a nasty hit on a blitz, suffering a collar bone fracture which forced him to leave the game.

Reserve quarterback Shea Gallo-Kolegue stepped in and led the Pioneers to a touchdown, connecting with receiver Jay Brunelle from 35 yards out to cut the deficit to 35-20 with 5:29 left in the third.

But the St. John's defense had zero answers in trying to contain the Golden Eagles. On its ensuing possession, Springfield Central, thanks to a 49 yard kickoff return by Bradley, marched 22 yards before Boston hooked up with Bradley on a 8 yard out-pattern to put the Golden Eagles ahead by 22 points. 

Following a quick four-and-out by the Pioneers, Springfield Central was back in business. Taking advantage of the short field, the Golden Eagles drove 37 yards capped off by a Boston 16 yard jaunt into the end zone with 23 seconds still remaining in the quarter increasing the lead to 49-20. 

"It will be a great experience for our kids, their families to go to Gillette Stadium," said Brower. "What I need to do now is focus our kids on the fact that we still have another football game yet to play and not get caught up in the hype of playing at Gillette. That will be a challenge as no one on this football team has ever played their before."

After both teams failed to do much offensively for most of the first quarter, Springfield Central finally managed to get on the board first. After a turnover on downs by the Pioneers, the Golden Eagles drove 71 yards before Kyles (14 carries, 174 yards) closed it out with a 28 yard touchdown run.

"We played them back in September but they have gotten better since then," Pioneers coach John Andreoli said. "They deserve to be playing in the state championship. We tried to pick our poison and take away certain things. But they were able to counter that by running against our five man box. Give them credit because they are certainly the best team from our division that is going down to Gillette."

Schofield, a junior, led the Pioneers on a 72 yard drive, capping it with an 8 yard touchdown pass to Gallo-Kolegue. Moments later, Mahari Miller was intercepted by St. John's defensive back Nick Mazzuchelli in the end zone. That led to a Brunelle 7 yard scoring catch from Schofield to put the Pioneers on top 12-7 with 6:32 remaining before the half. 

Cqari Bacote, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards, giving Springfield Central back the lead at 14-12. 

Then, with under three minutes showing, the Golden Eagles engineered another impressive 70 yard drive ending with receiver Tyvarius Daniels hauling in a 33 yard strike from Boston to send Springfield Central into the half leading by nine. 

Strong second half propels BVT

Only nursing a one point lead at the half, Blackstone Valley Tech seized control of the final 22 minutes, scoring a pair of touchdowns to put away Wahconah Regional, 20-6, in the Division 7 State Semifinal.

The victory earned the Beavers (10-1) another shot at a state title in as many years. They will face St. Mary's at Gillette Stadium. Last season, BVT lost to Mashpee in the championship tilt. Saturday's win also marked the second straight year the Beavers have eliminated the Warriors (9-2) in this game.

"A wise man once told me that it never gets old going to Gillette," said BVT coach Jim Archibald. "Last year might've been a bit unexpected but this year we have been very vocal about going back to Gillette and playing for a state title. Some people called us cocky but we knew we had the team that could do it. We'll be ready to go up against St. Mary's."

Sustained drives and some outstanding work compiled by tight end Jordyn Amero proved to be the difference in this one. The senior caught six passes for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Warriors secondary virtually lost sight of him throughout this contest.

"It's just the way we run things in practice which is why I was able to get open today," Amero said. "All the practicing that we do, it just comes to us during games."

Midway into the third quarter, BVT put together a successful 66 yard drive capped off by a Scott MacKay 28-yard scoring strike to Amero which gave the Beavers a 14-6 advantage.

On the other side, BVT's defensive game plan was nothing short of stellar. The Beavers locked up Wahconah's top receiver Tom Burris by constantly double-teaming him. The senior finished with just one catch for 30 yards.

Warriors quarterback Tim Clayton, who had thrown for over 1,500 yards this season, was constantly harassed by an engulfing Beavers front line. The senior was just 3-21 passing for 48 yards. As a unit, Wahconah, which averages 40 points-per-game, finished with only 189 yards of offense.

"Our defensive coordinator Anthony Landini has been doing this all year for us," said Archibald. "We demand a lot from our guys and they really came through today. We had our guys in the right place 
and we were ready for whatever Wahconah would throw at us."

Along with Amero, BVT, which finished with 276 yards, was also paced by MacKay, who hit on 7-of-12 passes for 78 yards and running back Jared Loiselle (39 rushing yards).

Early in the final quarter, an interception by Ethan Lynch set up the Beavers final score. Facing a fourth-and-11 on the Wahconah 25, MacKay found Amero for a 24-yard pitch and catch. That set the stage for MacKay's 1 yard dive over the goal line, with 2:34 left, to seal the deal for the Beavers.

"Wahconah came in here talking a lot before the game,'' said Amero. "They thought they were going to run us up and down the field. We just showed that we were ready to play and that we weren't going to back down from anything."

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