Cathedral flagged down by Blue Hills
WALTHAM - Sprinting untouched from 56 yards - with nothing but green turf between him and the end zone - Cathedral quarterback Matt Owens, with the ball snug in his right arm, raised his left fist to signify a touchdown late in the fourth quarter in the Division 4A Super Bowl at Bentley University.
Was it unabashed enthusiasm or unsportsmanlike conduct?
The call was the latter.
The touchdown was negated. Instead of having an 18-16 lead with just more than six minutes to play, Cathedral was forced to take the ball from the spot of the foul, at the 24-yard line. On the next play, Blue Hills’s Keith Gomes intercepted a pass by a visibly upset Owens, which all but sealed the victory for Blue Hills.
“In the game being played, we won the game. Give Blue Hills a lot of credit. They are a great football team, but we deserve better. The game got taken away from us,’’ said Cathedral coach Duane Sigsbury, who watched his team’s undefeated season dissolve in the blink of a penalty flag. “If you’re going to take a game away from a kid being excited because he just made the play of his life, shame on you.’’
Massachusetts schools play by NCAA rules, and the rule for unsportsmanlike conduct was modified prior to the season. Before this season an unsportsmanlike call on a touchdown was enforced on the next play, meaning the PAT. But the new rule treats unsportsmanlike calls the same as holding or clipping. The College Football Officiating guidelines state, “If the ball is alive when the player makes a taunting gesture, then the penalty is enforced at the spot of the foul - and the key outcome: no touchdown.’’
Blue Hills (12-1), though, put in the work to get the lead and retain it en route to the school’s first Super Bowl victory in its third appearance.
On Blue Hills’s opening drive, running back Vincent Burton (37 carries, 152 yards) yielded the stage to quarterback John Curran. The senior unleashed a 45-yard bomb to Isaiah Teixeira 2 minutes and 33 seconds into the game for an early 8-0 lead. Cathedral’s first chance was a quick three-and-out. On Blue Hills’s next drive, Burton rushed eight times in 10 plays before pounding it in from the 1 with 1:39 left in the half. He ran in his second 2-point conversion to help the Warriors to a 16-0 lead.
Cathedral (12-1) answered six plays later on a 44-yard bomb from Owens to Carlos Bermudez (5 catches, 85 yards) 25 seconds into the second quarter. A 3-yard TD scamper in the third quarter from Owens (9 of 19 passing, 149 yards) trimmed Blue Hills’s lead to 16-12. Gomes’s late interception at the Blue Hills 4-yard line stymied the Cathedral rally, but a safety cut the lead to 16-14 with four minutes remaining.
Cathedral’s last-gasp effort ended after five plays, a turnover on downs with just more than two minutes left.
Ed Catabia, coaching in his third Super Bowl for Blue Hills, said no vocational school has made it to back-to-back Super Bowls and won one.
“I told the kids in my pregame speech that we play for Blue Hills, we play for ourselves, the Mayflower Athletic Conference, and also the vocational conference,’’ Catabia said. “So I think they might have made a little bit of history today.’’
As for the penalty call, Catabia said rules are meant to be followed. Captains from both teams were warned by the officials prior to the game, who specifically mentioned unsportsmanlike conduct.
“We try and play by the rules, and the rule is no celebrating. It was unfortunate [for Cathedral] but it was a great call, the right call.’’