Super Mansfield Football Team Triumphs Over Rockets
Second-half comeback leads Hornets to sweet victory over Reading.
There's an old adage that's often used in sports that says, "It's not how you start, it's how you finish."
That old adage should be used to describe the Mansfield Hornets' performance in their 29-26 win in the Division 2 Eastern Massachusetts Super Bowl against the Reading Rockets Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
Down 26-7 at halftime, Mansfield looked like they were going down for the count. The Hornets turned the ball over three times during the first half and the Rockets made them pay scoring 20 points off those three turnovers. Quarterback Brian Bourque and end Nick Scali combined for all three touchdowns and accumulated 118 of the team's 189 yards during the first half.
"Coach (Mike Redding) just wanted us to work on our game," said Mansfield senior wide receiver Jeff Hill, who had five receptions for 191 yards and two touchdowns. "Everybody in the locker room kept saying that we had to pick up our game and everyone kept saying that we had to come back and win."
Mansfield came out of the locker room in the second half and got a little momentum as they stopped Reading on its very first offensive possession. And offensively, the big plays then started to come the Hornets' way.
The first of those plays came when quarterback George Busharis connected with Hill on a 55-yard touchdown pass to pull the Hornets within 12 at 26-14.
From there, the defense stood strong and held Reading to just 54 yards of total offense in the second half.
"We just simplified the defense a bit and just let the kids run to the football," said Redding about the defensive adjustments during the second half. "Instead of mixing it up, we kind of stayed in more base stuff and we really tried to key on Brian Bourque. He was really ripping us up in the first half and we tried to take his running game out of it."
That adjustment seemed to have worked as Dave Eberhart intercepted a pass from Bourque and returned it to the Reading 17 yard-line. A few plays later, running back Jamal Marshal scored his first of two second half touchdowns on a five-yard touchdown run to pull the Hornets within five at 26-21 at the end of the third quarter.
The Mansfield comeback seemed all but over when Reading defensive back Sean Gildea intercepted a desperation pass from Busharis with 1:32 left.
But just 30 seconds later, the biggest play of the game came when junior defensive back Dan Gilmore intercepted a pass attempt from Boruque and returned it 22 yards to the Reading two yard line.
"At that point, I thought we had come so far," Gilmore said. "But we just kept battling through and Jamal was able to punch it in. It felt great to make my mark here, especially in the last game of the season here at Gillette."
"It was such a heartbreaker. We cam down there twice and I thought we were going to take the lead with less than two minutes left and we didn't," Redding said about the events before the interception. "I said it would be kind of sad to have a great comeback and not win it. But we got the big interception, which obviously gave us the second chance."
Two plays later, Marshall scored his second touchdown of the game to give the Hornets a 29-26 lead (following the two-point conversion).
On the ensuing kickoff, kicker Dave Eberhart executed a brilliant onside kick and gave the Hornets the ball back and a chance to run out the clock. Reading got the ball with three seconds left, but Mansfield sealed the comeback after the Rockets' desperation play and gave Redding his sixth Super Bowl championship in his 23 year coaching career.
"I don't remember coming back from 19 points in any game never mind a super bowl," reflected Redding about his team's comeback. "Right now this has to be one of the top games that I've been a part of.