The St. Mary’s High School football team kept the high-scoring Cohasset offense under control for all four quarters
and the result was a scintillating 22-11 victory in the Division 7 state semifinals Saturday at Hormel Stadium in Medford.
Cohasset had averaged close to 40 points per game in the South sectionals, but the Spartans held the Skippers to one field goal and one very late (1:28 remaining) touchdown to lock up their berth in the Super Bowl to be played at Gillette Stadium.
There were huge plays on both sides of the ball, including a key, third-down one-on-one tackle by freshman Xavier Copeland on Cohasset running back Gray Thomas that forced the Skippers into a field goal situation.
“That was a nice play on their draw,” said St. Mary’s head coach Sean Driscoll. “He’s played great on both sides of the football, at center and noseguard. That was the biggest defensive stand of the game, holding that team to a field goal and then coming down and scoring, which was a big swing in the football game.”
Copeland said he was just executing the Spartans’ defensive strategy.
“I just went to the outside on my gap – that was my assignment there,” said Copeland. “We played very well as a team. It’s really exciting to be going to the Super Bowl.”
Eni Falayi, a 6-foot-5-inch junior, had an extraordinary day, making three outstanding catches in traffic and also picking off a Cohasset pass when he perfectly timed a step-in on the receiver near the sidelines.
“He [Falayi] played his best game of the season and I’m happy for him because he works hard,” said Driscoll. “He’s starting to figure out what his advantages and he started to use them.”
Felayi talked about his excellent catches and what it means to be going to the Super Bowl.
“My quarterback was scrambling and I just got up there and made a play for him,” said Felayi. “I used my height as an advantage. In August, I would never have thought we could get to the Super Bowl, but we came together as a family.”
Junior quarterback Derek O’Leary, whose leadership of the offense has been impressive, had another solid game. O’Leary scored on two QB keepers in what was another poised performance.
“He made some big plays, especially covering the onside kick to seal it,” said Driscoll.
Another player stepping up for the Spartans was senior Jalen Echevarria, who had a pivotal pass reception on a fourth-and-15 play in the fourth quarter. Echevarra was St. Mary’s leading rusher in the game and also scored the Spartans’ first touchdown on a 4-yard run for an 8-3 lead at the half.
Cohasset coach Pete Afanasiw credited the Spartans’ defense for containing them.
“They out-executed us,” said Afanasiw. “They got bodies to the point of the attack. My hat’s off to them, especially No. 6 [Falayi]. They made the big plays when they needed to and they should be feeling good about that – and he [Falayi] had those catches at rather critical times.”
St. Mary’s will play Blackstone Regional Vocational High School of Upton for the state championship.