Mansfield 29 Reading 26
By MARK FARINELLA
Attleboro Sun Chronicle
Here's the box score from that impossible-to-describe (but I will try) comeback win by Mansfield in the D2 Super Bowl:
Mansfield 29, Reading 26
Scoring summary:First quarter
Read - Nick Scali 11 run (kick failed), 3:02.
Mans - Jeff Hill 47 pass from Jamel Marshall (Dave Eberhart kick), 0:08
Read - Brian Bourque 2 run (rush failed), 8:55.
Read - Scali 32 pass from Bourque (Scali pass from Bourque), 1:01.
Read - Bourque 18 run (rush failed), 0:00.
Mans - Hill 68 pass from George Busharis (Eberhart kick), 5:49.
Mans - Marshall 5 run (Eberhart kick), 2:51.
Mans - Marshall 2 run (Marshall rush), 1:07.
Reading - DeSimone 10-58, Bourque 19-90, Scali 3-21.
Mansfield - Marshall 18-91, Donahue 4-22, Finerty 1-3, Busharis 4-15.
Reading - Bourque 8-12-2-77.
Mansfield - Busharis 8-14-2-232, Marshall 1-1-0-47.
Reading - Bates 2-11, Gildea 5-34, Scali 1-32.
Mansfield - Hill 5-192, Taylor 2-29, Donahue 1-40, Marshall 1-18.
MISSED FIELD GOALS: None.
Jamel Marshall scored on a two-yard run with 1:07 to play to cap a wild sequence of events and give Mansfield a 29-26 victory over Reading in the Division 2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
Mansfield appeared to have its chance at victory ended when Reading's Sean Gildea snuffed a Mansfield drive at the goal line with an interception late in the fourth quarter. The ball was spotted at the 1, and on second down, Reading attempted a pass from its own end zone.
Mansfield's Dan Gilmore intercepted the pass at the 20 and returned it to the 2-yard line.
"Maybe we were a little too aggressive near our goal line, but we were thinking about putting the game away," said Reading coach John Fiore. "We saw something on first down that we liked. Hats off to Mansfield, they made some big plays early in the second half."
After Gilmore's interception, Marshal took it in on the first play, and on the ensuing kickoff, Mansfield kicked a bouncing squib kick that struck a Reading player and was recovered by Mansfield's Ken Barsomian.
"I was expecting a pass, I don't know why," Gilmore said. "I just saw the ball and went up and got it."
Mansfield trailed 26-7 at halftime, but scored three touchdowns in the second half and its defense pitched a shutout.
"We made some football adjustments at halftime," said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. "Our motto is never surrender and we still had 20 minutes left to play at Gillette. I felt if we could score first, we could change the momentum."
Jeff Hill caught touchdown passes of 47 and 68 yards to lead Mansfield. Marshal had two touchdown runs.
Reading was led by quarterback Brian Bourque, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for another. Nick Scali ran for a touchdown and caught Bourque's 32-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
Mansfield had 404 yards of total offense. Marshall had 18 carries for 91 yards and Hill had five receptions for 191 yards. Mansfield quarterback George Busharis completed 8 of 14 attempts for 231 yards.
Won for the agesTUESDAY DECEMBER 7, 2010
BY MARK FARINELLA SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
FOXBORO - There is no other word to describe it.
"I don't know if we've ever come back from down 19," Mansfield High School football coach Mike Redding said Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium, "and to do it in the state championship against a great team like Reading, this will go down in the annals as maybe one of the best games ever."
No doubt, Mansfield's 29-26 triumph over the previously unbeaten Rockets in the MIAA Eastern Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl will be recalled for decades to come with awe and amazement by the players, coaches and fans that shared the experience. Down 26-7 at halftime and playing as if all of the lessons of 12 previous games had been forgotten, the Green Hornets (12-1) took stock of themselves during the intermission and resolutely set about the quest of undertaking a near-impossible comeback.
First, the defense had to prove that it could stop Reading's talented senior quarterback, Brian Bourque, who had rushed for 76 yards on 10 first-half carries - most on the same shotgun draw that wasn't disguised in any way - and completed all six of his passes for 74 yards.
That was accomplished when senior linebacker Joe Oram dropped Bourque for a loss of 3 yards on a first-down carry at the Reading 35 on the first Rocket possession of the half. Then two plays later, it was further confirmed when senior Mike Mallon sacked Bourque for a 2-yard loss, forcing the first punt of the game.
Taking over at its own 32, the reborn Hornet offense debuted when junior quarterback George Busharis found senior receiver Jeff Hill all alone down the right side of the field, a play that carried 68 yards to cut the deficit to 26-14.
"In the first half, we weren't playing our style of football," said Hill, who caught five passes for 192 yards despite an injury to his left shin suffered in the semifinal against Walpole. "We were turning it over and the defense wasn't doing so well. But at halftime, we rediscovered our identity as a hard-nosed defensive team, and the offense started rolling."
A three-and-out by Reading, and Mansfield went right back to work - a 55-yard catch-and-run by Hill over the fallen Bourque to the Reading 5, followed by Jamal Marshall's 5-yard TD run and Dave Eberhart's kick with 2:51 left - two plays, 60 yards, just 18 seconds.
And suddenly, it's a five-point game.
"We just played possession by possession," Redding said. "We thought if we could score first, it would be a game. If we could get a second or a third, it was wide open, and it went according to script.
"The key was our defense," added the 23rd-year coach. "We were 0-4 in the first half and they were 4-4 scoring on drives, and in the second half, we held them to a shutout. You wouldn't have predicted that at halftime."
To turn the tide, Mansfield had to stop Bourque from taking the snap and racing for big yardage through gaping holes in the defensive line. Mission accomplished; the 6-foot-5 senior was held to 14 yards on nine carries in the second half.
"We just tried to get more guys in the box and actually blitz less," Redding said. "If they see run, they could rally to it ... pass, get back. A little less blitz, more guys in the box. But I didn't think we could shut them out."
Those last five points would be a huge obstacle to overcome, however.
Eberhart's interception with eight seconds left in the third quarter put Mansfield in business at its own 17, and Busharis (8-14, 232 yards, one TD, two interceptions) lofted a 40-yard pass to Greg Donahue to get to the Reading 19.
A face-mask call on Marshall's next run brought the ball to the 9, but the Rockets stopped the senior back on three straight plays and a pass in the end zone for Dylan Finerty sailed long, turning the ball over on downs at the 2 with 5:08 left in the game.
Reading again went three-and-out and Mansfield got the ball back on the Rockets' 45 after the punt, but on a third-down throw, Reading's Sean Gildea intercepted Busharis at the 1 with 1:32 left.
Gildea was falling backward and out of bounds, but the officials ruled that he did not go into the end zone for a touchback - a huge break, and crucial to what followed two plays later.
With second-and-10 from the 1, Bourque dropped back to pass and was intercepted by Mansfield junior Dan Gilmore, whose 20-yard return to the Rockets' 2 presented Mansfield with one more opportunity to complete the comeback for the ages. Marshall did not disappoint, running off left tackle into the end zone with 1:07 left and following with a similar conversion rush.
"I knew it was possible," said Marshall (18 carries, 91 yards, two touchdowns). "I never gave up on my team. We have a strong unit and we've been working hard for four years together."
And to further frustrate the Rockets, Mansfield called for its third onside kick of the game and senior Ken Barsomian recovered it, allowing the Hornets to run off all but three seconds of the remaining time.
"We're doing the onside kicks, which may not have been the smartest things, but you have to be aggressive, you've got to play to win and not play not to lose," Redding said.
Mansfield's amazing second-half rally was in direct contrast to a mistake-filled first half.
Marshall, who broke a 42-yard run on the first play of the game, fumbled the ball away two plays later and Reading converted it into a 10-play, 74-yard drive capped with an 11-yard end-around by senior Nick Scali for a 6-0 lead.
Marshall atoned nicely when he fired a 47-yard halfback option pass to Hill for a touchdown with eight seconds left in the quarter.
"The halfback pass, I'm the only receiver that goes out," Hill said. "Jamel is one of the best backs in the state. So if they see him get the ball, they'll be coming up on the run."
Scali blunted the Hornets' excitement by returning the ensuing kickoff 72 yards to the Mansfield 17. Four plays later, Bourque ran the shotgun draw in from 2 yards out for a 12-7 lead.
From there, things began to snowball against the Hornets. Busharis was stripped of the ball after a 7-yard gain to the Rockets' 37 with 5:20 left in the half, and a 32-yard pass from Bourque to Scali (followed by that connection on the conversion) made it 20-7 with 1:01 to go.
Reading's Larry Gilligan was no little buddy to Busharis with 19 seconds left, picking him off at the Reading 34 and returning it to the Mansfield 40. Then, after a 22-yard pass to Gildea, Bourque raced 18 yards to the end zone as time expired, building a 19-point lead that would be extremely difficult to overcome.
As it was - but Mansfield proved it wasn't impossible.
"Our seniors are great leaders, a lot of character, and it came through today," Redding said. "If you don't have leadership and character, there's no way you're winning this game today."
Gilmore makes play when it matters mostTUESDAY DECEMBER 7, 2010
BY MARK FARINELLA SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
Amazingly enough, the play that turned defeat into victory for Mansfield High's football team on Saturday did not work in practice Friday.
The moral of the story? You live, you learn.
"I was looking for the tight end, a bump pass to the tight end," said Mansfield defensive back Dan Gilmore, plucked away from his celebrating teammates for a few minutes so he could explain his role in what will probably come to be known simply as the Mansfield Miracle.
"We practiced it in practice, and in practice when they ran that play, it actually beat me," he said. "So I knew I wasn't going to get beaten in the game, and I was looking for it."
"That play," as he called it, was a jaw-dropper.
Reading High's Rockets, winners of 25 straight football games, had the ball at their own 1-yard line with 1:32 left to play in the MIAA Eastern Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl, nursing a precarious but presumably secure 26-21 lead. They had denied Mansfield twice inside the 2-yard line over a four-minute span, and it appeared as if the Hornets' efforts to rally from a 26-7 halftime deficit had finally run out of gas.
But after a no-gain run by quarterback Brian Bourque, creating a second-and-10 situation, the Reading coaching staff called for a play that will be debated for years to come. And Mansfield was ready for it.
"For some odd reason, I knew they were going to pass it," said Gilmore, a junior. "I just reacted. I saw the ball coming."
Mansfield coach Mike Redding wasn't about to criticize the decision of his opposite number, John Fiore, because he could see at least one good reason why Reading needed to get a lot of yards in a hurry with a pass over the middle to the tight end.
"Right there," Redding said, "the feeling is that if you don't get the first down, you're punting to us and we're going to have the ball on the 40. They hadn't stopped us in the second half, and if you complete the pass, you win the game. Brian Bourque's a great quarterback and it was a nice throw, but we had great coverage on it.
"The funny thing is, we ran that play in practice yesterday and we did not cover it," Redding added. "The corner jumped up, we let the tight end go free, and maybe it was a good thing because we got it corrected and we stayed in coverage tonight."
Gilmore had his eyes on the prize when the play actually unfolded in real game action. Amid the gasps of more than 5,000 chilled-to-the-bone fans within the huge stadium, he jumped in front of the receiver at the Reading 22 and started a weaving, ducking and bobbing run to the end zone.
Gilmore, listed as 5-foot-6 and all of 125 pounds, thought he made it.
"I got pushed into the end zone," he said. "My momentum was still going forward because all the big linemen were pushing me in."
The officials disagreed, claiming that his forward progress had been legally stopped at the Reading 2. He wasn't about to quibble.
"At that point, I was just really excited that we got down that far," he said. "We kept on battling through it and finally were able to punch it in."
On the next play, senior running back Jamel Marshall went off left tackle into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, and he repeated the play for the two-point conversion with 1:07 left to play, completing an amazing comeback from a 19-point halftime deficit.
"It just felt great," said Marshall, who had thrown a 47-yard halfback-option pass to Jeff Hill for a touchdown in the first quarter, which probably felt as if it was a lifetime ago. "Our team had to step up. Great teams step up at the big time."
Redding was practically speechless after the game. Even at halftime, the players said, the oratory was more a matter of asking them to look deep within themselves and to finish the season with the pride and determination they had displayed all season long.
"He said he never wanted us to give up and to never surrender," Gilmore said. "That's what he said. It's Mansfield pride... we've always battled through tough times."
There were plenty of heroes in the Mansfield comeback, including those whose names are immediately recognizable to those who follow the team in the newspapers. But games like this one tend to create new heroes, and Gilmore is a classic example of the hard-working, unheralded kid who, when presented an opportunity to execute what he had been taught, came through in the clutch.
"I feel great right now, but I'm more proud of the team," he said. "We all battled back at halftime and not a lot of teams can come back from 26-7. It's amazing nothing feels better than this."
Lines pave way for Hornet winTUESDAY DECEMBER 7, 2010
BY DAVID CARTY SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
FOXBORO - Reading's 26-7 halftime lead over Mansfield at Gillette Stadium was the glaring number. Sure, your eyes told you that Rockets' quarterback Brian Bourque was orchestrating another sonata on the field, but the 19-point deficit is about enough to erase any shades of gray as to the who-what-where of the first half.
Depending on who you talk to, Hornets coach Mike Redding either delivered an inspirational halftime speech or a very straightforward one. What's not debatable is the effort put in by Mansfield's corps of linemen. While points were needed, the Herculean comeback began in the trenches, where those players with numbers in the 50's and 60's do their dirty work. The linemen don't appear on the scoresheet, but their success is determined by disrupting those on the opposition who do. For all Reading's talent and ability, target No. 1 was clearly Bourque. After a perfect 6-for-6 first half with one throwing touchdown and two rushing, Mansfield did what no other team could do, get in Bourque's head by getting at his body.
In one key third-quarter stretch, Mansfield sacked Bourque twice in the course of three plays to bring Reading's drive to a screeching halt. On a first and 10 with about seven minutes to play in the quarter, eye-blacked senior Joe Oram dragged down Bourque, spinning him to the Gillette Stadium turf. Two plays later, on third down, center and nose guard Mike Mallon popped the 6-5 quarterback as he looked for running space outside the tackle box.
After a punt, Mansfield began its offensive resurrection with a 68-yard bomb from George Busharis to Jeff Hill. One play, six points. The Mansfield defense couldn't make such a marked difference on a single play, instead having to consistently find a way to stop Reading's larger offensive line. Luckily, it's a task the Hornets have been up to previously.
"We just battled to make plays," said Redding. "Our 11 guys, you put them in a room in street clothes, you wouldn't believe they're our starters. They're small and they're undersized. But they're tough, they're fast and they work hard in the weight room. They came to play in the second half. To shut out that team for 20 minutes is a heck of an accomplishment."
Reading's 25-game winning streak is one to remember, but its second half against Mansfield is one Bourque would rather forget. He rushed for just 15 yards and completed one pass, while having two intercepted.
Oram and Mallon check in at under 6-feet and much of their linemates aren't much bigger, but where size lacks, experience leads. In order to stop the Rockets' balanced offense, Mansfield would need to play its best single half of football of the season.
"I'm really not sure how we shut them out in the second half," admitted Redding. "Bourque and their backs can pound you inside. If you get too many guys inside, they got four good receivers. They're tough to defend."
Three of five offensive linemen and the entire Mansfield D-line are comprised of seniors, including Chris Walker, Sean Otto and two-way starter Kyle McGuire, a Hockomock League all-star, who was among the first in line to accept the championship trophy with tears in his eyes and fresh blood smeared above his nose.
"Our line has been tough all year," he said. "We're always smaller than most of the kids we go up against but we played tough. We have a lot of heart. That's what matters."
The Hornets struggled to score the game-winning touchdown, twice having drives stall and relying on the defense to get the ball back - a task they happily performed. When the Mansfield offense did get the ball back on the Reading 2-yard line, Hockomock MVP Jamel Marshall was handed the ball in what was Redding's bread-and-butter play on the afternoon, a power run to the left side. Nearly every one of Marshall's 18 carries went to the left, a conscious decision designed to both utilize the blocking of stellar left tackle Anthony Todesco and left guard Carlos Arevalo and to avoid game-changing edge-rusher Jeff Covitz, working against right guard Nick Leonard and right tackle McGuire.
"I have not done a game plan to avoid one lineman as much as we did (with Jeff Covitz)," acknowledged Redding. "He's a great high school player, should be a scholarship college player. We did not want to run to him on a regular basis. That's why all the runs (went) left. We have good linemen over there but it was a mix of utilizing our strengths and avoiding their strengths."
The ability to wash away three first half turnovers and ignore the dismal score staring them down from Gillette Stadium's two large video boards at each end zone turned an inconceivable comeback into a 29-26 storybook victory.
"If you don't have character guys today, you don't win the game," said Redding. "Second half, we held them to a shutout. You wouldn't have predicted that when we went in at halftime."
Here's the kicker: Eberhart's an impact playerTUESDAY DECEMBER 7, 2010
BY DAVID CARTY SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
FOXBORO - Mansfield's embarrassment of rich talent has yielded yearly rewards, be they in numerous Hockomock League titles - winning seven of 10 since 2001 - or six Super Bowl titles.
Hockomock League MVP Jamel Marshall's gritty running stands out first. The connection between quarterback George Busharis and Jeff Hill, both friends, grew stronger in every game. Kyle McGuire, a two-way menace on the line, is a team co-captain and the heart of the defense.
It's easy for some to get overlooked, say defensive back/kicker Dave Eberhart for example. The Hockomock League all-star didn't read his name in headlines often, but cobbled together a solid regular season with three interceptions as the team's starting free safety.
His effort in Mansfield's 29-26 MIAA Division 2 Super Bowl victory over Reading is not to be understated. While the defensive backfield looked as victimized as any element of the Mansfield defense in the game's first half, his second half interception put the ball back in the offense's hands down by a score, one of two interceptions thrown by Reading's all-everything quarterback Brian Bourque.
A rock-solid kicker, Eberhart's 3-for-3 performance on extra points were crucial in Mansfield's three-point win, especially as Reading struggled to score on PAT attempts.
"The extra points today were huge with the tight goalposts," said coach Mike Redding. "He's a good cover guy, plays smart. He's good on run support. He's the typical Mansfield football player, just works hard and gets better."
Also important was Eberhart during kickoff. Mansfield attempted an onside kick after narrowing the score to 26-14. His kick was perfectly placed about 20 yards down the right sideline, but could not be kept inbounds and corralled by the Hornets' special teams unit.
Redding called for a squib attempt at the Rocket's front line later in the half, but Eberhart couldn't connect, shanking the ball to the weak left side where Reading recovered.
But his third squib attempt turned out to be the charm - a literal kick to Reading's chops as his teammates completed a metaphorical roundhouse. With 1:07 to play after Marshall's game-winning touchdown, he lined the ensuing kick off the chest of a Reading special teams player before teammate Ken Barsomian dove on the ball, setting up a Mansfield drive that would bleed the clock to three seconds remaining.
The end result of the kick was more than coach Redding could ask for, ironic considering he didn't ask for it. Eberhart was instructed to kick the ball deep and feared Redding's wrath as the low-lined ball left his foot, that is until he saw Taylor fall on it.
"He made up for the other one," said Redding. "This will be a film you look at 100 times and see some unbelievable plays."
"We've been practicing (squib kicks) all year, saving them for the right opportunity," said Eberhart. "We ended up making a big play."
The 5-11 senior was as composed as any Mansfield player as he answered questions from a bevy of recorder-wielding reporters post-game, seeming to take in the win as another day at the office, chit-chatting at the water cooler. Though his team's extraordinary second half comeback is not lost on him.
"I'm going to think about halftime," he said. "We're down by 25. We just talked about how we have to dig deep. We were shooting ourselves in the foot. We ended up coming back, working together. Coach (Redding) made the right calls, we made the right plays and we went out and played our hearts out."
Redding expected nothing less than such an effort from his multi-use, all-effort senior. Once a meek-looking freshman, Eberhart's dogged weight room work put him in a position to capture a starting spot, and a Division 2 crown.
"He was a 5-7, 120-pound freshman," the coach said. "If you said he'd be the starting free safety on a state title team in three years, everyone would laugh."
A few miles away from Gillette Stadium, down Route 140, a certain senior defensive back might just share a chuckle as he celebrates a championship.