WALTHAM, Mass. -- In 2010, Mansfield stunned Reading with a furious second-half comeback to steal the Division 2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
On Saturday afternoon at Bentley University, the Rockets got their revenge.
A dominating performance at the line of scrimmage, two forced turnovers, and several big plays helped Reading capture the 2012 Division 2 Super Bowl title with a 27-7 win and finish of perfect 13-0 season.
“We were calling it the ‘Reading Revenge Tour,’ actually,” commented junior quarterback Drew Belcher. “We knew how that game ended. That was a big lesson from that game that we knew that we had to finish.”
The game swung on two plays in the second quarter.
With the game tied 7-7, Mansfield senior running back Kevin Makie was stuffed on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line. On the very next play, Rockets tailback Alex Valente escaped from the pile at the line of scrimmage and raced 99 yards for the touchdown. He received a big block downfield by receiver Ryan Maney to help him into the end zone.
“I just saw the hole full-speed, went at it, and everything opened up,” said Valente, who rushed for 171 yards on 8 carries. “Big props to Ryan Maney, down there, running right beside me...If it wasn’t for him, it wouldn’t have been a touchdown.”
Mansfield head coach Mike Redding admitted after the game that not converting on fourth down in that situation was a big turning point in the game.
“Just not finishing that drive to get up 14-7 was the pivotal point,” he explained. “This is the best team that we’ve seen this year.”
Reading extended its lead on the opening possession of the second half. An 11-play, 59-yard drive ended with Belcher throwing for Valente only to see the ball slip through his running back’s hands and fall into the grasp of Reading wide receiver Chris Godwin.
“Sometimes you need the ball to bounce your way to get the win and that’s what happened,” said Belcher.
Reading put the game away when Jared Barros picked off a Kyle Wisnieski pass and returned it 75 yards for the score. It was one of two interceptions by the Rockets, who caused problems in the Mansfield passing game in the second half. Wisnieski was 8-12 for 104 yards before the break, but only 4-14 for 48 yards after halftime.
“Really proud of the kids today, defensively we were awesome,” said head coach John Fiore. “It was just such a team effort.”
Mansfield got off to a great start in the game. Senior running back Robbie Rapoza, who has battled injuries all season, returned the opening kickoff 72 yards to the Reading 10. Three plays later, Wisnieski found sophomore Brendan Hill at the 1 and the 6’4” wide receiver spun and lunged into the end zone to make it 7-0.
Hill had an outstanding Super Bowl with 7 catches for 113 yards. He is one of the players that gives Redding hope that next season will be even better for the Hornets.
“We had a great season with a bunch of new faces,” said Redding. “Ten of those guys were JV starters a year ago and to move them up and get to the Super Bowl…great year. I don’t think anyone in September gave us much of a chance to be here. It was North Attleboro and King Philip’s championship to win and we battled and found a way to get here.”
Reading matched Mansfield with a score on its opening drive. Valente broke a 51-yard run down to the Hornets’ 4-yard line. One play later, Belcher scored on a keeper off right tackle to make it 7-7.
Belcher finished the game with an impressive stat line. He was 10-16 passing for 102 yards and a touchdown and ran for 52 yards on 13 carries and another score.
There was to be no second half comeback this season. The Rockets were the better team from start to finish and celebrated with their fans on the field long after the final whistle.
There will be no need for a “Reading Revenge Tour” in 2013.