The St. Mary’s High School football team had averaged 35 points per game in the state playoffs while defeating Georgetown, Greater Lawrence, Nashoba Tech, and Cohasset.
Meanwhile, a 22-11 win over Cohasset in the Division 7 semifinals represented one of the program’s greatest-ever defensive performances, an effort that totally frustrated the explosive Skippers.
But an experienced Blackstone Valley team, that had played in the Super Bowl a year earlier, was able to contain the St. Mary’s attack for all four quarters, earning an 18-0 victory over the Spartans Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
The Beavers were well aware of the spectacular season that senior Jalen Echevarria had put in to the record books during his first year of varsity football. Blackstone coach Jim Archibald also knew about quarterback Derek O’Leary and receiver Eni Falayi’s clutch performances in the state semifinals and the excellent blocking that the St. Mary’s offensive line had provided all season.
“We had to try to win the battle at the line of scrimmage which we were able to do,” said Archibald. “Our defense has been doing this to teams all year. [Echevarria] was a point of emphasis for us. Don’t let him outside. If he’s going to beat us, we have to try to make him beat us between our tackles where all our help is. We had [Felayi] bracketed with somebody over the top and somebody underneath. He’s 6-5 and a tremendous athlete, so we just tried to keep somebody on him and get pressure on the quarterback.”
St. Mary’s head coach Sean Driscoll, who had a brilliant, first year at the helm of the Spartans’ program, credited the Blackstone defense for stopping his team’s offense.
“My hat’s off to them,” said Driscoll. “They have a great defensive football team. But I’m proud of my kids. I’m proud of how we came together during the year, with a big transition year being a first-year head coach and coming in with new guys, and they really adapted to that, and I’m proud of the way they showed up to play this morning. I think it’s a very successful season.”
Falayi, a junior who will now turn his attention to varsity basketball and what could be another state title run, was able to look at the big picture and the memories of playing at Gillette Stadium, home to the New England Patriots.
“It was a great season – we just came up short,” said Falayi. “Playing at Gillette was a really good experience, not a lot of people get to play here, so I’m just really blessed to have that experience. It looks like they watched a lot of film on us and knew what we were going to try to do, and they stopped our strengths. But It was a very successful season and I’m really proud of my team, how we played, and how we came together toward the end. I love my team. Coach Driscoll is a very good coach and I’m very excited to play football for him next year.”