The St. Mary’s High school football team laid claim to the Catholic Central Large championship with an impressive 32-6 victory over Archbishop Williams Saturday at Manning Field.
Junior running back Jordan Collier rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns while junior defensive back Austin Harvey set the tone with a first-quarter interception return for a TD to power the Spartans to their ninth victory of the season.
Junior running back Jordan Manthorne put his stamp on the victory with an 85-yard touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Jake Cassidy, one of several newcomers who have subscribed to the team motto of “stepping up,” displayed excellent leadership at the helm of the offense.
The Spartans, under fifth-year head coach Matt Durgin, had been to the championship doorstep the past two seasons but had fallen just short of the coveted CCL title. Despite the graduation of two 1,000-yard rushers in Todd Collier and Cory Donahue, Durgin said he had a good feeling about the 2012 team in terms of its work ethic and off-season preparations.
“We had some concerns about the amount of varsity experience,” said Durgin. “But it’s been a great group. They’ve worked hard and they’ve had great team chemistry.”
Durgin said the leadership of senior captains Andres Rodriguez and Nick Lee was an essential ingredient on the road to the top. “They’re outstanding captains. They lead by example. They’re just good kids who never miss weight training or practices. They’re very dependable.”
The Spartans provided an early sign that this could be their year with a 34-6 victory over Cambridge. “We were pleasantly surprised by that result,” said Durgin. “That was a good, solid win against a very talented Cambridge team. From there we went week to week and the team just worked hard and played hard. They played for 44 minutes.”
Cassidy improved steadily as the quarterback of the team, quickly learning the offense and showing confidence in his new role. “He picked right up on the offense and he’s a very competitive athlete,” said Durgin.
Collier, Manthorne, and sophomore John Gaeta gave St. Mary’s a high-powered running game. Charlie Beaton also made his presence felt in the backfield. Tight end Brent Lozzi, right tackle Rodolfo Jimenez, right guard Andres Rodriguez, center Jack Leonard, left guard Nick Lee, left tackle Alec Gunning, and end Luc Zikianda developed into the best offensive line in the league.
“Our offensive line is a great group that works well together and they’ve been so consistent,” said Durgin. “You don’t see it in the box score, but a lot of the success is because of the those guys.”
Rodriguez, Zikianda, Jimenez, Leonard, and Brian O’Connell keyed a stellar defensive line that allowed fewer than 10 points a game. Linebackers Michael Daly, Scott Betts, John Gaeta, Nick Lee, and Marvin Bony and defensive backs Connor Sakowich, Jordan Manthorne, Jordan Collier, and Austin Harvey were other major contributors to the league’s stingiest defense.
“We played great team defense,” said Durgin. “A lot of credit goes to coach [Derek] Dana. He puts a lot of work in and the kids really respond to him.”
Durgin also praised the other members of his coaching staff, Tom Donahue, Brian Mulvey, Harold Watler, Wilson Perjuste, Sean Donahue, and Jeff Newhall.
“I’m fortunate to work with a great group of coaches,” said Durgin. “I’m very happy for our team and our program. Our motto this year was step up and the players did that.”
St. Mary’s will bring a 9-1 record into the annual Thanksgiving eve game against Lynn Tech. On Nov. 27, the Spartans will face Commonwealth Conference champion Shawsheen in the semifinals, with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl.