WEYMOUTH, Mass. -– David Stewart saw daylight and did what any normal 17-year-old kid would do – he took off for the races. And with it, he cemented Madison Park’s stamp in MIAA football history.
The MP Machine is in the Super Bowl for the first time since losing in back-to-back years nearly 15 years ago (1997-98). And in the final year of the Super Bowl era, the Tigers became just the second Boston City League team to make it to Gillette Stadium thanks to Stewart’s 72-yard kick return for a touchdown late in the third quarter, putting the finishing touches on an 18-6 win over Bristol-Plymouth (5-7) in a Division 4A playoff.
MP (8-4) moves on to face Boston Cathedral (10-2) in the Division 4A Super Bowl, at 9 a.m. Saturday morning at Gillette.
Stewart hesitated for a split-second as he corralled in the short kickoff amidst the snow flurries, found an opening up the right sideline and sprinted – all 6-foot-4 of him – up the seam, untouched the entire 72 yards to paydirt.
“My thing was just, if it comes to me, run as hard as I could, and don’t let them touch me,” said Stewart, who also stars on the Tigers’ Division 1 South finalist basketball squad. “I saw them all come in as I hesitated, so I kicked it out.”
And that seemed to kick a slow game – stalled still slower by the combination of snowy conditions and two old-school dust-cloud offenses (MP the split-back veer; B-P the wing-T) – to life.
The two teams combined to fumble the ball seven times in the first half, though only two turnovers produced and only once did it lead to points. That was MP’s second touchdown of the second quarter, helped along by two passes to Stewart on hitches to the sticks, and punched in with an Alexis Santiago (15 carries, 86 yards) five-yard sweep around the left side.
It was overall an efficient night for the pint-sized senior, who demonstrated patience coming across the line of scrimmage before making his cuts.
“We just waited for our breaks,” MP head coach Roosevelt Robinson said. “We’ve got two little scatbacks, and if they get behind the big horses, it’s hard to get them. We’ll take four yards, we’ll take five yards, we’ll take that. As long as they keep moving the chains, we’ll take it. We’re a patient team.”
Sizeable gains: The final offensive play by B-P was a fitting statement for what kind of pressure the Tigers threw at them. On fourth down, senior Kalvin Jones shot off the backside untouched, blindsided quarterback Colin McGrath and drove him into the turf.
All game long, MP’s defensive ends made life difficult for the Craftsmen’s rushing attack, with the 6-foot-4 Stewart and the 6-foot-3 Jones using their length and size advantage to fill gaps and disrupt. As mentioned about with Stewart’s basketball prowess, the two demonstrate some terrific vertical leap, though they didn’t need to bat many passes in this one.
“They’ve been together for four years,” Robinson said. “They get off blocks and seal that end, and they can catch [too]. So, we’re just happy to have them, and as seniors I’m proud of them. We don’t get a lot of young men to play football at Madison Park. So the ones that come out, we love them.”
MADISON PARK 18, BRISTOL-PLYMOUTH 6
MP (8-4) 0 12 6 0 --- 18
BP (5-7) 0 0 6 0 --- 6
M – Hector Villar 1 run (pass failed) 7:24
M – Alexis Santiago 5 run (pass failed) 2:32
B – Adam Mota 4 run (pass failed) 2:46
M – David Stewart 72 kickoff return (pass failed) 2:36