FOXBOROUGH - Arlington Catholic had been a second-half team all season but on Super Bowl Saturday the Cougars decided to get started a little earlier.
AC capitalized on a key turnover and scored 12 points in the final two minutes of the first half to take an 18-12 lead. The momentum swing propelled the Cougars through the rest of the game, as they cruised in the second half to a 32-20 win over Norton for the EMass Division 3 championship.
"It's funny because I said in the locker room, 'Hey we're the best second-half team around and we have a lead in the first half. We'll be good in the second half,' " said AC coach Serge Clivio.
Norton standout Sean Ryan, who ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns, fumbled inside the Lancers' 10 with 1:56 remaining. AC captain Steve Pagliocca recovered the ball in the end zone to even the score at 12.
"It was unbelievable pressure on the quarterback [Brendan St. Germain] because they weren't expecting us to come up the middle like that and [Ryan] must have got nervous and fumbled it," Pagliocca said. "I just covered it up in the end zone. It was definitely a difference."
The Cougars forced a punt and stormed down the field. Quarterback Corey Spencer (14 of 27, 203 yards, three touchdowns) hit a leaping Ricky Douglas in the right corner of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left to put AC on top at the half.
The Cougars pulled away on the first drive of the second half, marching 52 yards and scoring on a 13-yard run by Charlie Bates.
With Norton attempting to come back late in the third quarter, Ryan fumbled again, this time as the Lancers were on the verge of scoring. The Cougars executed an efficient 94-yard drive with Spencer and Douglas connecting again, the 12-yard hookup putting AC up, 32-12.
It was the Cougars' first Super Bowl championship since 1993.
"Coming up with those turnovers and managing our own offense really was the key, the big difference in the game," Clivio said.
Joe Wesoloski led the Cougars in receiving, with five catches for 90 yards. The Arlington Catholic defense forced three turnovers, with Jibreel Henderson's interception with about nine minutes left sealing the victory.
"The offense had been doing it all year and the defense, we stepped up today. It was a total team effort," said captain Travis Stanley.