FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As the old saying goes, you live by the big play, you die by the big play. Both teams in the Division 4 final had gotten to this point with their homerun hitters so it was only fitting that the team that made the bigger plays would take home the hardware.
The dual threat of Doherty’s Issac Yiadom and Alfred Adarkwah torched the Dolphins secondary for nearly 200 yards and a pair of long scores as the battle of two explosive offenses went in favor of the Highlanders, 28-26.
“It's crazy, it feels like it is unreal,” said Yiadom. “At the beginning of the season, we were all talking about being state champs we finally got here and accomplished our dream.”
A Highlander touchdown score midway through the fourth quarter gave the Central champs a 28-14 lead and seemingly the Div. 4 state championship game, but the never-give-up Dolphins made for an interesting final five minutes. L.K. Metz had his game of the season and Spencer Tyler orchestrated two scores setting up a 2-point conversion with 56 second remaining to tie the game.
Tyler seemed to have Andrew Jamiel open in the end zone, but penetration from the Highlanders defense forced Tyler to his right and the pass intended for Mike Anderson fell harmlessly at his feet.
“When it was 21-7 and 28-20, we didn’t expect to lose, we still though we were going to win and we played all the way to the end,” said Paul Funk who coached his Dolphins to their second finals appearance in three years. “That’s how those kids play, they play hard like that.”
In the end it was the play of Yiadom and Adarkwah that separated the teams.
Adarkwah continued his torrid pace this postseason catching his seventh touchdown in his fifth postseason game, and it could not have come at a better time.
With 10 second remaining in the first half in a 7-7 ball game, the Highlanders were facing fourth and 10 from the Dolphin 41-yard line when they sent Adarkwah deep. He beat Michael Dunn, who was pressing off the line, and the safety help in Liam Matheson was a moment too late as Adarkwah hauled in the deep bomb from Luke Brennan to give the Highlanders a 14-7 lead heading into the half.
“As the game goes on with short quarters, you try to figure out what they are doing to you, they were doing a good job pressing our outside kids,” Doherty coach Sean Mulcahy said after his team earned the second Superbowl title in the programs history. “Alfred finally beat the press coverage and got over the top on them and Luke made a great throw.”
“It was a big play for us right before the half and big momentum for us.”
On Doherty’s first drive of the second half, Brennan dialed up the long ball again, finding Yiadom alone on a deep crossing route. Brennan hit him in stride and the Boston College commit went 64 yards untouched for to put the Doherty up 21-7 midway through the third quarter.
The Dolphins got life on the following drive when Spencer Tyler marched his troops downfield, setting up a Cory Desimone 2-yard scoring run to cut the deficit to 21-14.
But the Highlanders responded with an 8-play, 71 yard drive capped off by Jahkari Carpenter’s 1-yard run to seemingly bury the Dolphins 28-14 with just under five minutes to play.
But L.K. Metz returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to the Highlanders 9-yard line and Tyler found sophomore Andrew Jamiel on the following play for a 9-yard score. On the PAT, Jahkari Carpenter broke through the protection and blocked Drew Tardiff’s kick to keep the score at 28-20.
“Metz was outstanding. Metz is a gamer,” said Funk. “I’d take him any day. He’s a gamer, he was ready, he played great on both sides of the ball.”
After the onside kick failed, the Dolphins needed to rely on their defense for a stop, which they had a difficult time with in the second half. Facing a third and third and four with just over two minutes remaining, Brennan couldn’t handle the snap and lost 11 yards on the play.
The Dolphins took over on their own 21 with no timeouts. Tyler converted a fourth down to Dunn and a long screen pass to Metz set up D-Y at the Doherty 13. Two plays later, Tyler called his own number and scampered into the end zone from six yards out to set up a game-tying two-point attempt.
With the Dolphins season and championship hopes hinging on one final PAT, the Doherty defense rose to the occasion with penetration from their line and good coverage in the secondary to secure their first championship title since 1980.
“We’re tough. We’ve been down before in games and come back,” said Tyler. “We’ve had tough games long the way, tough games in Marshfield. We’ve had a lot of tough games so we were prepared for this one but bad play at the end.”
After watching his team build for the last few years, Sean Mulcahy was proud to see his players finally brake through.
“It says that a Worcester city team with good players can play with anybody. Right now, we are very competitive team at the highest level of football in central mass and we’re proud of that and this team caught fire at the end of the year and finished the job of what has been building for a few years.”
DMHS 0 14 7 7 -- 28
DY 7 0 7 12 -- 26
DY-Spencer Tyler 11 run (Drew Tardiff kick), 0:16
DMHS-Luke Brennan 8 run (rush fail), 1:38
DMHS-Alfred Adarkwah 41 pass from Brennan (Jahkari Carpenter run),, 0:00
DMHS-Issac Yiadom 64 pass from Brennan (Brennan kick) 4:57
DY-Cory Desimone 2 run (Tardiff kick), 2:21
DMHS-Carpenter 1 run (Brennan kick), 4:43
DY-Andrew Jamiel 9 pass form Tyler (kick blocked), 4:13
DY-Tyler 6 run (pass fail), 0:56