FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Jamel Marshall threw one and ran for two touchdowns, the last with 1:07 left in the game, after their third attempt in five minutes, leading Mansfield to a second half, 22-point come from behind win, 29- 26, to seize the Division 2 Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
“Maybe somebody someone’s looking down on us,” Mansfield head coach Mike Redding said. “Or we’re doing the right things, but we got a third chance, and finally, we were able to get it in.”
With 1:32 left in the game, Reading’s (12-1) Sean Gildea picked off Mansfield quarterback George Busharis at the Reading 1. Leading 26-20, Reading had the opportunity to run out the clock. Seems simple enough, but Reading coach John Fiore is not a fearful man. He gambles.
He felt fine having quarterback Brian Bourque throw up a shot on second and 10, but junior defensive back Dan Gilmore was buzzing and snagged the bullet at the 22, then shot the sideline back to the Reading two, giving Mansfield (13-0) an unprecedented third shot at the end zone in the last five minutes with 1:10 left in the game.
“That was an amazing catch,” Busharis said. “Amazing grab. Probably the play of the game.”
“We were probably a little too aggressive on our own goal line,” Fiore said. “We were thinking about putting the game away late.”
After the helter skelter pace, Marshall law was ordered. He dove into the end zone behind the left side of his line for the go ahead score with 1:07 left on the clock.
“I knew we were down,” Marshall said. “And I knew we had to score."
For the extra point, Marshall (18 carries, 91 yards) continued his sworn duty to Mansfield, taking the pitch left, and decided that he’d bring a few Reading players in the end zone with him for the point after, making the game 28-26.
““I am always going to give the extra effort,” added Marshall. “That’s just what I do. I don’t really want to go down after the first person hits me. That’s probably why [coach] gave it to me.”
The onside kick by Dave Eberhart (3 PATs) was kicked directly at a first line Reading player, but it hit him and bounced back towards the Hornets. Mansfield’s Ken Barsomian recovered the ball at the Reading 43, but unable to complete the first down, Mansfield gave up the ball with three seconds to go. Reading tried a last minute reverse pass, but the ball fell dead, sealing the honey-flavored win for the Hornets.
“It’s a dream come true,” Eberhart said. “We’ve been waiting ever since Pop Warner; sixth grade, eighth grade, working hard in the off season…the running…all of it makes it worthwhile now.”
For those of you who left at halftime…
If all you saw was the first half of the game, you may think that the final score was a product of the "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", but this was the manifestation of a 13-0 team that has the resolve to win. No matter what.
Down 26-7 at the half, with Reading getting the ball back to begin the second, Mansfield was facing a double uphill battle, having no momentum after giving up two touchdowns in the last 1:01 of the second quarter. According to Redding, the seniors set the tone for the second half.
“’Hey, we got twenty minutes,’” Redding said of his seniors’ halftime speech. “’We’re at Gillette, we’re a good football team, we’ve just got to get stops.’ They did more of the talking than we did.”
Beginning the second half from their 25, Reading ran four straight plays for positive yardage and the first down from the 35. Then something happened. Senior Joseph Oram sounded the horn and the Hornets swarmed.
“We’ve been there before,” said Oram, referring to his freshman year when the team was losing to North Attleborough in the first half, since this today’s game was the only time this year Mansfield fought from behind. “That’s all I could think about.”
Oram (five tackles) smacked Reading quarterback Brian Bourque for a 3-yard loss on first down. Then Bourque passed to Gildea for no yardage. On third and 11, Mansfield defensive lineman Mike Mallon Jr. (three tackles, sack) rocked Bourque for a three-yard loss, bringing up fourth and 15 from the 30. Brian Bourque’s 48-yard punt was downed at the Mansfield 32.
Then, the Hornets went to the air.
Hill (5 receptions, 191 yards) pulled in the 68-yard play action pass from George Busharis (8-14, 231 yards, TD) to put Mansfield on the board with 5:49 left in the third quarter and Dave Eberhart’s extra point made the game 26-14.
“Hill didn’t practice well,” Redding said. “[He] was the key when we got the first stop.”
“Jamel’s one of the best backs in the state,” Hill said of Reading biting the fake that left him open. “If they see him get the ball, they’re coming up for the run.”
On the following drive, Reading made one play for positive yardage, an Anthony DeSimone (10-58) 12 yard run on third and 18.The stop on DeSimone by Oram left Reading with their first three and out series on the day, as the last two Reading four down series had led to six points.
Hill, who also caught a 47-yard touchdown pass in the first half, reeled in another long ball for 54 yards, setting up on the Reading five yard line. Then the Marshall laid down the law, running left and meeting two defenders at the three, but muscled his arm and the ball past the plane to put Mansfield within five, and Eberhart’s steady boot put the game within 5 at 26-21.
On the ensuing kickoff, a Mansfield off sides penalty put the ball on the Reading 46, and DeSimone, always looking for a seam to rip, found one and rumbled into Mansfield territory.
After another first down and two runs by DeSimone, Reading faced third and nine from the 15, but Eberhart was on the hunt and got a pick at the 17.
“He lobbed it,” said Eberhart, “and I snagged it.”
Mansfield marched down to the Reading 9, but faced fourth and goal from the two; Busharis had time in the pocket but could not find an open receiver, turning over the ball with 5:08 left in the game.
Reading was then charged with holding onto the ball and maintaining the lead, but a third down right screen pass from Bourque to Zack Bates was deflected by Mansfield’s Zack Schafer (four tackles), forcing a punt. Mansfield again put together a drive, this a five play, thirty yarder, but Busharis threw another pick, this one intercepted by Reading’s Gildea, to no avail for the Rockets.
“We knew we had it the whole way,” said senior Kyle McGuire, donning a bloody nose bridge. “It’s all about being a team. You can’t give up, that’s what this shows you.”
R 6 20 0 0 -- 26
M 7 0 14 8 -- 29
R - Nick Scali 11 run (kick failed)
M -Jeff Hill 47 pass from Jamel Marshall (Dave Eberhart kick)
R - Brian Bourque 2 run (pass failed)
R - Scali 32 pass from Bourque (Scali pass from Bourque)
R - Bourque 18 run (PAT failed)
M - Hill 68 pass from Busharis (Eberhart kick)
M - Marshall 5 run (Eberhart kick)
M - Marshal 2 run (Marshall rush)