By Cary Shuman
The St. Mary’s High School football team has had one of the highest-scoring offenses in Massachusetts this season, averaging more than five touchdowns a game.
But with two of the team’s most explosive performers sidelined with injuries for the Division 3A North final against Stoneham, head coach Matt Durgin needed his defense to step up for four quarters.
Led by the tandem of senior lineman Liam Reddy and senior linebacker Joey Silvestri, St. Mary’s held Stoneham to one touchdown in a 16-6 victory that locked up the North title and a berth in the Superb Bowl on Dec. 3 at Gillette Stadium.
Reddy was immense on both sides of the ball while Silvestri recovered two fumbles in the game.
Calvin Johnson, the Spartans’ leading scorer, left the game with an ankle injury early in the first quarter. Abraham Toe, the other half of the Spartans’ dynamic backfield duo, did not suit up for the game.
That left James Brumfield, younger brother of former St. Mary’s girls basketball star Sharell Sanders, as the featured back in the offense and the 5-foot-10-inch, 175 pound junior was ready for the extra carries.
Brumfield had 22 rushes for 171 yards, including a scintillating 63-yard run with 22 seconds left in the first half that gave the Spartans a two-score edge at the half (16-0).
“James has stepped up all year when we’ve put him the backfield,” said Durgin. “He reached deep down and he got it and he ran with the opportunity. Unfortunately for him, he’s behind two of the best backs on the North Shore, but when he got his shot, he took advantage of it.”
The St. Mary’s coaches made a pair of brilliant calls in the first half that resulted in an 8-0 lead. Quarterback Marcus Atkins threw a touchdown pass to 6-foot-7-inch, 215-pound freshman Matt Cross to give St. Mary’s a 6-0 lead. Patrick Henry, a 6-foot-3-inch, 260-pound tight end, caught the two-point throwback pass from Atkins for the conversion. Both plays were well designed and seemed to catch the Stoneham defense off guard.
A St. Mary’s defensive stand and Brumfield’s touchdown late in the first half turned the momentum back to the hosts heading into intermission.
“We weren’t able to score, and then with 30 seconds left, they were able to pump that long touchdown run in and that was a tough one,” said Stoneham coach Bob Almeida. “It was a one-score game at that point and then they were successful with their conversions and we weren’t, so we would have been playing for one score and instead of two. So it changed the complexion of the game and our play calling down the end.”
Almeida, whose team had scored 77 points in playoff wins over Greater Lawrence and Ipswich, praised St. Mary’s defensive effort.
“I give a lot of credit to their defense,” said Almeida. “We knew that they were a tough defense and we had to execute and finish off our drives.”
Durgin cited his team’s defensive play as being vital to victory.
“It was an excellent team win and the defense was outstanding,” said Durgin. “Joey [Silvestri] plays fullback and middle linebacker and doesn’t get the accolades but he comes to play, packs a lunch, and plays very important minutes for us. We did what we had to do on offense and the defense kept coming up big all night.”
St. Mary’s Principal James Ridley congratulated the team on earning a trip to the Super Bowl, the biggest stage in Massachusetts high school football.
“I want to congratulate the St. Mary’s football players and coaches, especially coach Durgin, for being Division 3A North champions,” said Ridley. “We’re on the way to the Super Bowl. Hopefully, we can get healthy and we’ll be ready for that game. I will be at Gillette. It’s very exciting for the entire St. Mary’s community.”