The St. Mary’s High School will be facing an experienced Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School team in the Division 7 Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
Blackstone Tech, whose nickname is the Beavers, has 22 seniors on its roster. Blackstone played in last year’s Super Bowl at Gillette, falling to Mashpee, 22-16.
“It’s a very talented group,” said Blackstone coach Jim Archibald about his senior class. “A lot of the seniors played as sophomores. They have been leaders in every sense of the word and they’ve really set the tone for our team throughout the year.
Blackstone (10-1) has won 10 games in a row after losing to Millbury in the opener. It has been a perennial playoff team under head coach Jim Archibald, who took over the program in 2011. The Beavers won the Central/Western Mass. Super Bowl in 2010, the Central Mass. Super Bowl in 2012, and the last six Colonial Athletic League titles.
St. Mary’s will have to contend with an explosive Blackstone offense that has averaged more than 30 points a game. Junior running back JT Antaya is the leading scorer with 13 rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns, and three interception returns for touchdowns. Six-foot-two-inch senior quarterback Scott McKay has completed 53 percent of his passes, with 13 touchdown passes and more than 1,100 yards passing. McKay has also rushed for five touchdowns.
Blackstone’s leading receiver is senior Connor Christensen, who has 19 receptions for 384 yards and four touchdowns. Senior tight end Jordyn Amero has 17 receptions for 287 yards and five touchdowns. Amero was also the Division 7 Central Mass. Defensive MVP with 70 tackles and 10 sacks.
“We have a good number of guys contributing on offense,” said Archibald. “We try to make the rounds on offense.”
Blackstone’s defense has not allowed more than two touchdowns in any game. “We’ve given up an average of 6.4 points per game,” said Archibald. “Defense has been our strong suit all year.”
In addition to Amero, senior defensive tackle Ethan Blake and senior defensive end Nick Reed, (7 sacks) are other top defensive players for the Beavers. “It’s a veteran group up front,” said Archibald.
The Blackstone coaching staff has watched the St. Mary’s football team on game films. “The thing that stands out to me right away is their team speed,” said Archibald. “They play very fast and they play downhill and come right at you. It’s impressive to watch their speed and the way they play as a unit defensively. Offensively, it seems like they run first, but they’re certainly capable of throwing the ball and their quarterback [Derek O’Leary] is a very good athlete and has some big targets like No. 6 [Eni Flayai]. And their running backs [George Freeman, Jalen Echevarria, Connor Donohue] are athletic, tough and like to run between the tackles. And as the game wears on, the better they get. It’s certainly a challenge for us to match their physicality and speed.”
Interestingly, Blackstone and Nipmuc Regional (a school that is located across the street from Blackstone and is playing in the Division 5 Super Bowl Saturday), chose to cancel their Thanksgiving game last week, rather than playing what would have amounted to a JV game, according to Archibald. Blackstone is located in Upton and draws students from 13 communities in the Blackstone Valley area of central Massachusetts.
So the stage is set for a showdown for the state championship between Blackstone and St. Mary’s. Can St. Mary’s head coach Sean Driscoll and his coaching staff and players contain another high-scoring opponent as they did so successfully in a 22-11 win over Cohasset in the state semifinals?
The kickoff is set for 11 a.m. on the biggest stage in high school football.