FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Mansfield High School's three turnovers in the first half resulted in three Reading High School scores, and Reading led 26-7 at halftime. It looked as though all hope was lost for the Mansfield Hornets.
Yet Mansfield coach Michael Redding came in at halftime and delivered an emotional speech, urging the Hornets to believe -- and they did. Redding's Hollywood-style motivational speech inspired Mansfield to a captivating 29-26 comeback in the fourth quarter.
Redding told his team to "never give up, and never surrender", creating a storybook ending in the Division 2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.
Early in the second half the Hornets' defense stepped up first. Defensive linemen Kyle McGuire and Mike Mallon Jr. forced consistent pressure on Reading's Brian Bourque -- something that was missing in the first half.
Reading went three and out on the second drive of the second half, and punted away to the Hornets. Then it was the offense's turn to take the reigns.
Mansfield's offensive unit took the momentum and struck on a 68-yard touchdown pass from quarterback George Busharis to Jeff Hill, and made the score 26-14.
"Once we got to 14, we all said 'hey we have a ball game'," Redding said about the score. "The kids started believing and we just started playing great defense."
In the second half alone, Mansfield had 241 yards to Reading's 54. While running back Jamel Marshall was a key to the comeback, Busharis put up bigger numbers. In the game Busharis completed 8 of 14 passes for 231 yards (205 in the second half alone) with one touchdown and one interception.
"The first half we just had to forget about -- that wasn't Mansfield football," Busharis said about the first half.
Although clichés usually are looked at as -- well, cliché -- apparently in this comeback they worked.
"We just kept saying it was 20 minutes for the rest of our lives," Mansfield co-captain Sean Otto said, breaking through tears after the win. "I couldn't think of a better way to end my senior year."
And to think it almost didn't happen.
Reading stopped Mansfield on a goal line-stand with 5 minutes, 5 seconds to go in the game. Then the Hornets got the ball back with 3:06 left in the game, and it looked as though it would be their last chance to score. However Busharis through an interception while trying to create the winning score.
Reading was then pinned at the 1-yard line, and couldn't get out of its own end zone. On third down, it looked as thought they would run to get a yard or two and try and run down the clock before a punt. Instead, Bourque was intercepted by Mansfield's Dan Gilmore, and Gilmore took the ball down close to the end zone.
"In practice that play actually beat me," Gilmore said about the interception. "But, I knew I wasn't going to get beat in the game."
Marshal then had a 2-yard touchdown, capping off the exciting comeback.
The 19-point deficit was erased, as Mansfield took a 3-point victory and the Division 2 Championship.
"Just never give up, and never surrender," Gilmore said about the theme of the comeback.