SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. – It wasn’t pretty and it was downright frustrating at times.
In what was expected to be a high scoring affair between two of the best passing offenses in the state, it was the defenses that stole the show in Friday’s Division 4 South title game.
The Dolphin defense picked off Panther quarterback Matt Jeye five times and the offense finally found their stride in the final quarter in a 26-7 victory, clinching a spot in the Division 4 State semifinals.
The Dolphins broke a 7-7 tie with less than five minutes to play on Michael Dunn’s 11-yard scoring run and Spencer Tyler put the game on ice a minute and a half later with a 13-yard scamper.
“We just started off slow,” Tyler said following the victory. “I struggled a little bit, us as a group we weren’t clicking as we’re used to. We knew we had to pick it up in the second half because the defense played a hell of a game.”
The D-Y front four got immense pressure on Jeye all game, resulting in five sacks and countless knockdowns. Defensive end Jake Stafford led his line with three sacks and Kyle Pina and Dan Robels each got to the senior play-caller once.
“They got pressure on him, that was the key to it,” said Panther coach Todd Kiley. “They got pressure with their front four and our guys had a little difficulty getting open. D-Y did a great job, they have great athleticism in the secondary.”
That pressure contributed to the five interceptions. The first came at the end of the first quarter when L.K. Metz jumped an out route on fourth down and returned it to the Panthers’ 38-yard line.
The Holliston defense answered by forcing D-Y to turn the ball over on downs in four plays.
Two plays later, Mike Anderson picked off a pass intended for Paul Beling, giving D-Y the ball at the Holliston 25 yard line. Tyler made the Panthers pay five plays later hooking up with sophomore receiver Andrew Jamiel from 12 yards out. A Drew Tardiff extra point gave the home team a 7-0 lead with eight minutes to play in the second quarter.
“From start of the game to end of the game, I don’t know if anyone had a better game than Andrew Jamiel,” D-Y coach Paul Funk said. “He’s only a sophomore. For a sophomore to step up like this and go both ways, he normally doesn’t do that.”
After the two teams turned the ball over on next two drives, Jeye (9 of 34, 119) yards) had the Panthers on the doorstep of tying the game when the ball took an unfortunate bounce.
With the ball at the Dolphins’ 17 yard line, Jeye went over the middle but the ball was tipped by Tristan O’Leary at the line of scrimmage and fell into the hands of Angelo Hardaway.
Again the Holliston defense made a stop, forcing a punt at midfield. Liam Matheson pinned the Panthers at their own one-yard line and on the following play, Dunn (16 carries, 90 yards) picked off a deep pass down the right side intended for Zach Elkinson and returned it to the Holliston 35.
“I can’t say enough about Mike Dunn,” Funk said “That kid [Elkinson] is one of the best players in the state. He covered him all game on defense and ran the ball as much as we could give it to him on offense. It says a lot about him.”
Put into a tough position third time that quarter, the Holliston defense answered again forcing a turnover on downs.
The Dolphins got the ball to begin the half and were set to double their lead when Holliston caught a break. After going four plays and 46 yards in less than a minute, Corey Desimone (10 rush, 51 yards) fumbled the ball away at the Panther 14-yard line.
After an ugly first half in the passing game, Holliston began to transition to the run game, giving their junior halfback Joe Bellomo a heavier load and looking toward the run-option to move the football.
On their first two drives of the half, the Panthers rushed the ball for 100 yards and tied the game with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter on Bellomo’s nine yard scoring run.
With the momentum at the back of the Panthers their defense forced another D-Y stop and Jeye had the offense clicking. Threatening to take the lead with the ball at the Dolphins 25 yard line, the DY defense stiffened up and forced the turnover on downs.
Dunn broke out a 40-yard run on the following play and scored from 11 yards out seven plays later.
Matheson picked off Jeye for the fifth time on the following drive, and Tyler and Jacob Pawlina scored touchdowns in the final three minutes to finish out the game.
Taking away their weapons: D-Y had not seen a passing offense like this since Barnstable to open their season. To plan for the three and four wide receiver sets that the Panthers run, the Dolphins took some up their own wide receivers to line up on defense.
Making D-Y secondary’s job easier was the outstanding play of the defensive line.
But the Panther wide outs had difficulty getting any separation.
Andrew Jamiel was the standout defensive back for the Dolphins. The sophomore doesn’t play defense but was inserted into the lineup and had himself a game.
“Jamiel was outstanding,” said Funk. “A kickoff return, a touchdown, he made a tackle on the quarterback, great defensive play on fourth and long.”
Mike Anderson drew the tough card of handling Jeye’s favorite target Paul Beling. Beling caught five balls for 67 yards, but was relatively held in check as he longest catch was only 15 yards.
Dunn lined up opposite Elkinson and held him without a catch on the night.
We just kept working on it hard in practice,” Dunn said. “We put a couple receivers that start on offense and I covered them in practice to prepare for [Elkinson]. They only had a couple targets to three and no catches, so I think we worked hard enough in practice and prepared for them well to ruin their game plan.”
That stingy Holliston defense: When Holliston football comes to mind it is their electric pass game that immediately comes to mind. But their defense stole the show.
The Panthers turned the ball over four times in the first half. Three of those Dolphin drives began in Holliston territory. D-Y only got seven points off those four turnovers. Given the circumstances, the defense showed up to play. D-Y was 2-for-14 on third down and had four fourth down stops.
“Our defense played great,” said Kiley. “As poorly as we played, we had a chance in the fourth quarter to close it out.”
Dennis-Yarmouth 26, Holliston 7
H 0 0 7 0 -- 7
DY 0 7 0 19 -- 26
DY-Andrew Jamiel 12 pass from Spencer Tyler (Drew Tardiff kick), 8:02
H-Joe Bellomo 9 run (Matt Jeye kick), 2:49
DY-Michael Dunn 11 run (kick fail), 4:30
DY-Spencer Tyler 13 run (rush fail), 2:51
DY-Jacob Pawlina 29 run (Tardiff kick), :27