The Reading and Beverly teams capped undefeated seasons with victories, Everett won its third consecutive title, and St. John’s Prep captured its first championship since 1997. Here’s a look at their road to Super Bowl crowns:
EMass Division 1
St. John's Prep 48, Brockton 28
Defining moment of the season: After losing to Everett 19-7 in Week 3, the Eagles (11-1) bounced back and beat Brockton 27-12 the following week, triggering a season-closing nine-game winning streak. “It wasn’t one of our better games,” said coach Jim O'Leary of the Brockton win. “We came out with a win and we were thankful for it, but we were determined to play better [in the Super Bowl] than we did that night.
Key play of the Super Bowl: After the Eagles scored on their second play from scrimmage, they forced a three-and-out from Brockton. Lucas Bavaro blocked the punt, senior Jake Anemoduris pounced on the recovery and returned the ball for a 22-yard score and a 13-0 lead three minutes into play. “Once it goes bad like that, things can drop off the table quick,” O’Leary said.
Unsung hero: Prep scored 33 touchdowns on the ground this season, and O’Leary tipped his cap to the offensive line, anchored by senior center James Fagan.
“You don’t rush for [almost] 3,000 yards without a line like we had,” O’Leary said. “Fagan is our linchpin in the middle, all the best linemen are put on his nose and he anchors our line.
Stat check: Fifteen different players carried the ball this season, racking up 2,994 yards, which accounted for 75.8 percent of Prep’s offensive production. Johnathan Thomas (1,794 yards) and Alex Moore (857 yards) led the way.
Coach O’Leary: “I’m just so pleased it happened with this team,” O’Leary said. “The day after [last season], they got into the weight room. They made the determination and worked as hard as anybody could possibly work.”
The Future: Twenty-eight seniors will graduate. Along with Thomas, a junior, four of the five starting linemen return: juniors Dominic Hoven , Sean Hoey , Kent Blaeser and sophomore Jacob Palmer . O’Leary is also excited about the return of junior lineman Sean Lovett and sophomore tight end Jake Burt .
EMass Division 1A
Defining moment of the season: Just three weeks in, the Crimson Tide toppled St. John’s Prep, 19-7, on second-half touchdowns from Kenny Calaj and Jalen Felix .
Key play of the Super Bowl: On Barnstable’s third pass of the game, defensive back Josh Palmer intercepted Nick Peabody, one of the state’s most prolific passers, and returned the ball 30 yards for a pick-six.
Unsung hero: For coach John DiBiaso, Gilly DeSouza did it all. When DiBiaso needed a quarterback, DeSouza, who had never played the position before, stepped up. He captained the defense at safety, was the team’s kicker, and even played wide receiver. “He was essentially a coach on the field,” DiBiaso said.
Stat check: After quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso carved his name into the record books last season, the elder DiBiaso shuffled four quarterbacks through the depth chart. Junior Pat Long and sophomore Lukas Denis were both injured in the preseason, leaving DeSouza to play four games before junior Raheem Wingard finished out the season. All quarterback troubles aside, Everett still managed a Super Bowl title.
Coach DiBiaso : The Super Bowl victory “was especially gratifying because we had a lot of bumps in the road. It wasn’t the smoothest season. We had a lot of injuries and had to switch positions around. I lost about five years off my life, but other than that, it was good.”
The future: Nearly the entire offensive unit is graduating. The Crimson Tide will be without Notre Dame-bound lineman John Montelus and the whole offensive line, their top scorers, Washington (23 touchdowns) and Felix (13), as well as Calaj and DeSouza. While there will be plenty of holes to fill on offense, the defense looks bright with the return of defensive back Lubern Figaro , and linebackers Angel Duarte and C.J. Parvelus , who will all be seniors.
“We’re graduating a lot of very good players, so next year we’ll definitely be in the rebuilding process,” DiBiaso said.
EMass Division 2
Reading 27, Mansfield 7
Defining moment of the season: Burlington (10-2) gave Reading a scare Oct. 5 when it took a 15-14 lead late in the contest. But quarterback Drew Belcher engineered an 8-play, 47-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown run in the final minute to keep the Rockets undefeated.
“We know we can make plays and we made them,” Reading coach John Fiore said. “We met all comers, played a tough out-of-league schedule and here we are.”
Key play of the Super Bowl: With Reading trailing 7-6 in the first quarter, senior back Alex Valente (8 rushes, 161 yards) bolted for a 99-yard score to give the Rockets a 14-7 lead.
“We felt if we could block that play up, he’d get a big gain and he turned it into something tremendous,” Fiore said.
Unsung hero: In the third quarter Saturday, sophomore wide receiver Chris Godwin secured a pass in the end zone from Belcher, which had tipped off the hands of Valente, to give Reading a 21-7 lead against Mansfield.
Stat check: The Reading D allowed just 5 points per game this season, registered five shutouts, and didn’t allow a touchdown until Week 5 against Burlington. In the Super Bowl, senior Jared Barros returned a 75-yard pick-six for the final score.
Coach Fiore: “I just can’t say enough about how well our program played,” he said. “I’m really proud of the kids and our coaching staff. It’s been awesome to cap the season 13-0.”
The Rockets are graduating 17 seniors, but a strong junior class is returning, highlighted by Belcher, running back Liam Kenneally , and linemen Jimmy King and Andrew Bourque
Beverly 28, Natick 21
Defining moment of the season: On Oct. 12, Beverly trailed Cape Ann/Northeastern (Div. 1) champion Masconomet 14-10 in the third quarter, but the Panthers scored three straight times to take a 30-14 win.
“That was one of the true tests we had,” coach Dan Bauer said. “That second half showed a lot about our team.”
Key play of the Super Bowl: As Beverly clung to a 14-7 late in the second quarter, Natick QB Troy Flutie fired a pass into the end zone, but Brendan Flaherty knocked the pass down to derail the scoring attempt.
Unsung hero: All great rushing teams have two things in common — great running backs, and a bulldozing offensive line. Behind seniors Mike Dooling , Kevin Kennedy , Marc Babcock , Brian Perry, and junior Zac Duguid , Brendan Flaherty and Kenny Pierce combined to score 41 touchdowns.
In the Super Bowl, all of Beverly’s 347 yards came on the ground.
“We’re fortunate to have great running backs, but without the line, nothing happens,” Bauer said.
Dooling added, “We were just doing what the coaches taught us to do. It all comes back to the 6 a.m. conditioning we do over the summer. The coaches pushed us and said it will pay off, and they were right.”
Stat check: Behind a monstrous rushing attack, Beverly averaged 36.2 points per game, and scored 40 points four times this season, outscoring foes, 471-137.
Coach Bauer: “It was an unbelievable season,” Bauer said. “And a historical one at that. To be able to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl was great for our school and the community. We’re right there with the greatest teams [in school history].”
The future: Bauer will lose 26 seniors, but he admitted this year’s victory — the second title in three years — will help the program move forward.
“Having a season like this adds a lot of excitement in our school program, and the youth football,” Bauer said.
“This group of seniors was cultivated in the youth football program and that has been very positive. The expectations are high, and hopefully we pick up where we left off.”