BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- The Bridgewater-Raynham seniors came into their Thanksgiving Day showdown with Brockton knowing it would be the last high school game of their careers.
They then proceeded to help make sure it became that way for their counterparts, as well.
After dominating the first half then holding off a spirited Boxer rally in the second half, the Trojans won the second annual Cape Cod Cafe Bowl, 14-8.
Combined with New Bedford's win over Durfee, B-R's defeat of Brockton (5-6) denied the visitors a chance at playing in an Eastern Mass. Division 1 semifinal despite winning the Big Three Conference outright. Due to a league rule that prohibits a team from making the postseason with a sub-.500 overall record, it will be New Bedford that goes to the playoffs for the second year in a row.
"We knew they weren't going to lie down, that's for sure," said B-R coach Dan Buron of Brockton. "We treated it like a playoff atmosphere for us."
Leading the way for B-R (8-2) were senior running backs Nick Schlatz (26 carries, 136 yards, 2 TD) and Branden Morin (12 carries, 79 yards), who combined for 178 yards in the first half as the Trojans built up a 14-0 lead.
Perhaps just as importantly, those two touchdown drives ate up nearly 15 minutes on the clock, effectively keeping Brockton's offense off the field.
Brockton finally got on the board in the fourth quarter when Moise Edouard recovered a fumble near midfield to help set up a 22-yard touchdown pass from Austin Roberts (81 yards rushing, 89 yards passing) to Lucas Depina. After a poor snap on the PAT, Roberts alertly picked the ball up and found Jerrod Shelby for the two-point conversion to pull his team within 14-8.
Although Brockton was able to force a B-R punt, the Boxers could not earn a first down on their final possession as the Trojans ran out the clock.
All it takes is one: You know what you're going to get with B-R. The Trojans are going to run the ball, then they're going to run it again and after that, they will run it some more. It seems pretty simple but it's a lot harder to stop than it sounds. However, while Brockton couldn't slow down the ground assault in the first half, the Boxers made stops in the second half.
As B-R proved, though, all that running only sets up a great look out of play action. With B-R ahead 14-8 and just 4:14 remaining, the Trojans faced a third-and-6 from their own 31.
Quarterback Brad Delullis -- who had attempted and misfired on one pass all morning -- faked a handoff, rolled to his right and hit Eric Wabrek (fumble recovery, interception) for the 6-yard gain and first down. The play allowed the Trojans to run off an extra minute and was another example of why opponents hate to line up against this team. B-R lulls you to sleep sometimes but it can be a winning formula.
An irreplaceable pair: Buron spoke highly of his seniors after the game, and two in particular stood out on Thursday in Schlatz and Morin. Asked after the game by one reporter how he is going to replace them, he simply said, "You can't." Schlatz, at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, is simply a battering ram with enough speed to get to the outside on several toss plays, especially in the first half. Morin found his space in the middle of the Brockton defense, knifing ahead on traps and dives in the teeth of the Boxer front. Each player found himself in the middle of the action on defense, with Schlatz playing an active role at safety. Buron said the two made as good of a backfield pairing as he's had, which is high praise given the players who have passed through his system.
Mistakes doom Boxers: When the Boxers look back on this game, they will no doubt lament how several errors kept them from pulling off the comeback win. On the opening drive of the second half, the Boxers drove right down the field and seemed poised to score. Roberts then made a run down to the goal line that was called back due to a holding call that was vehemently protested by the Brockton sideline. After the Boxers then moved inside the 5, they fumbled soon after and Wabrek recovered to end the threat. On the Trojans' ensuing possession, Brockton had B-R stopped near the 20 but a late hit extended the drive another five minutes. Combine those mistakes with the fact that Brockton had its first drive stall in the B-R red zone, and there will be plenty of talk in Boxer-land about how this was a winnable game that got away.
BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM 14, BROCKTON 8
Brockton (5-6) 0 0 0 8 – 8
Bridgewater-Raynham (8-2) 7 7 0 0 – 14
BR – Nick Schlatz 2 run (Kevin Wadsworth kick)
BR – Schlatz 6 run (Wadsworth kick)
B – Lucas Depina 22 pass from Austin Roberts (Jerrod Shelby pass from Roberts)