FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Holliston finished its perfect run to the Division 3A Super Bowl championship on the back of a beast.
One year after falling in the 3A title game, Panthers running back Kevin Curry rushed 36 times for 182 yards to lead Holliston over Cardinal Spellman at Gillette Stadium, 21-7.
“He is ‘the beast,’ ” said Panthers coach Todd Kiley. “That was our theme, ‘Feed the beast.’ It’s not only him, it’s the guys up front. We put some different backs in there and they’re doing some nice things too so it was just a team effort.”
Curry spearheaded a prolific rushing attack that totaled 279 total yards on the ground for a Panthers team that is usually known for its passing game. Quarterback Sean Mayo entered the game with 1723 yards passing and 21 touchdowns, but Holliston (13-0) broke a 7-7 halftime tie and pulled away in the second half, attempting just three passes in the third and fourth quarters.
“We’ve gotten a lot of press, a lot of ink for our pass game,” said Kiley. “We knew all along we’ve got great guys up front, we’ve got a great running back, and our quarterback can run too, so we’re a tough team to defend.”
Mayo (7-20, 40 yards; 13 carries, 69 yards) provided some change of pace for the Panthers, converting two long third downs on quarterback draw plays, and punching in two scores when Holliston got deep in Cardinals territory.
His first score came as the last play in the third quarter and broke the 7-7 tie. From the Cardinal Spellman (11-2) one yard line, he spun, faked a hand off and dove across a pile for the score. His play was the exclamation point to a 10-play 55-yard drive where Curry carried the ball six times.
On Holliston’s subsequent possession, they went 60 yards in just under five minutes. This time, Curry got to put on the finishing touch with a ten yard run where he was sprung loose with a lead block from an unlikely source: his quarterback.
“On that [touchdown to end the third quarter], he drove it down the field and I got the one yard carry in the end zone,” said Mayo. “I had to repay him somehow.”
That made the score 21-7 and proved to put the game out of reach.
“The whole town was here today,” said Kiley, whose team fell 38-15 to Austin Prep in last year’s 3A Super Bowl. “You don’t know how it feels until it happens. It’s the greatest feeling. It’s up there with having a child. It really is. Don’t tell my wife that.”
Holliston opened the scoring with 5:57 remaining in the first half when Mayo plunged across the goal line from two yards out. For a team that averaged just under 40 points per game during the season, it was a light-scoring half. But with the way the Panthers defense played, the lead seemed safe.
Cardinals running back Blaise Branch (6 carries, 5 yards), who had scored 36 rushing touchdowns coming into Saturday, was held to just five yards in the first half. On the first play of the second half, he suffered a concussion and did not return.
“Their defense dominated so we couldn’t do anything, when we lost our one weapon for the first half, that got our kids down a little bit,” said Cardinal Spellman coach Ron St. George. “We all hate not to be success but I am proud of how hard we played.”
The Cardinals scored when quarterback Zac Cooney found Joe Glynn wide open for a 25-yard touchdown strike with 23 seconds left in the first half. The play capitalized on a Patrick Hinkley interception that put Cardinal Spellman on the Holliston 45-yard line.
“We turn it over, we get right back on the ball and it’s time to play,” said Curry of his team’s attitude going into halftime. “Going into half they got one, but we’re coming back to play.”
That they did.
Holliston forced its first turnover with just over a minute left in the game. Brody Ciarcello intercepted Cardinal Spellman backup quarterback Kevin Crane to effectively end the game.
“The emotion, I can’t even explain right now,” said Curry. “It hasn’t even gone through my head yet. It’s great. The season’s over with a ‘W.’ It’s perfect.”
And so are the Panthers.
Holliston – 0 7 7 7 – 21
Cardinal Spellman – 0 7 0 0 – 7
H – Mayo 2 run (Christian Baker kick)
CS – Cooney 25 pass to Glynn (Jordan Williams kick)
H – Mayo 1 run (Baker kick)
H – Cooney 10 run (Baker kick)