FRANKLIN, Mass. -- David Neil was sort of messing around at practice Sunday kicking field goals, but Blue Hills coach Ed Catabia liked what he saw and decided to install the sophomore as his team’s field goal kicker - just in case.
As the saying goes, chance favors the prepared mind, and Neil proved his coach a prophet when he delivered a 26-yard boot that cleared the crossbar with 3.7 seconds remaining to give Blue Hills a 25-22 victory over East Boston in a Div. 4A semifinal matchup at Pisini Field.
“He was around 28-30 yards with accuracy,” said Catabia of watching Neil in practice. “We thought we’d just put in just in case we needed and it paid off. East Boston is a great team and we’ve had some great contests over the years. We knew this game could be coming down to who had the ball on the last possession.”
As for Neil, the 6-2, 195-pound offensive end/defensive lineman had never even tried a field goal prior to that Sunday practice.
“I was pretty much thinking, just don’t miss,” Neil said after his game-winner. “I was thinking about all the seniors on my team and how it could be their last game. I wanted to win and give them a chance at the ring.”
“This is actually a dream situation right now,” Neil continued. “I was surprised. I thought we were going to right down the middle or something like that. We don’t normally kick. I just got put in as a kicker the other day and luckily my coach had faith in me to put me in and kick the ball. I didn’t get all of it and was lucky it went in. It was a great relief.”
The buildup to Neil’s game-winner came through a back and forth slugfest on the ground. Neither team made a secret of its intent to run, and both were able to do so with great success.
Blue Hills (11-1) got things started right off the bat, going 61 yards on the game’s opening drive, and ending with a 25-yard touchdown run by Jordan Rotman (9-53 rushing). Eastie (7-4) came right back with a 62-yard march of its own and watched as Davonte Holloway went in from eight yards out. Both teams made their conversion rush tries and the game was tied at 8-8 with 2:03 left in the opening quarter.
Blue Hills muffed the ensuing kickoff, but Rotman got the ball right back with an interception at his own 31. The Warriors alternated carries between Vincent Burton, Isaiah Texeira and Rotman, with Burton (game-high 108 yards) finishing things off by bulling through the middle for a 9-yard TD.
Again, the Jets were in a hole, and again, they dug themselves out of it thanks to their own trio of backs. Holloway, Andre Rickerson (10-63 rushing) and Kyle Jimenez-Fox (10-63 rushing) each took turns rushing the ball and Eastie plowed down to the Warriors 8, where Rickerson finished it off around the left end. Blue Hills was able to tack on another score before the break, however, as Texeira (7-67 rushing) went in from the 7 and the Warriors took a 22-16 lead into halftime.
“Our defense didn’t stop them most of the evening and I told them at halftime, all we need is one stop. If we have one stop we have a viable shot at this game,” Catabia said. “We talked about playing at 100 percent, we talked about giving it all out on the field. We have 22 seniors and I tip my hat to every one of them. they took last year’s experience at the Super Bowl to another level this year and did a hell of a job.
Eastie used all but 36 seconds of the third quarter but got stopped at the Blue Hills 5 when Jean Vital stuffed Rickerson on fourth down. Rather than get down, the Jets forced a fumble that was recovered by Daniel Auch at the Warrior 17, and three plays later, Holloway scored his second touchdown to tie the game at 22-22.
“Our guys don’t quit,” said Eastie coach John Parziale. “It’s just a shame we ran out of time. We are the City champs, we won on Thanksgiving and finished 7-4. We did really well and we’re happy for the kids. But take nothing away from Blue Hills. They are great and I wish them the best in the Super Bowl.”
BLUE HILLS 25, EAST BOSTON 22
East Boston (7-4) 8 14 0 6 - 22
Blue Hills (11-1) 8 14 0 3 - 25
BH - Jordan Rotman 25 run (Vincent Burton rush)
EB - Davonte Holloway 8 run (Andre Rickerson rush)
BH - Burton 9 run (Burton rush)
EB - Rickerson 8 run (Rickerson rush)
BH - Isaiah Texeira 8 run (rush failed)
EB - Holloway 10 run (rush failed)
BH - David Neil 26 field goal