READING, Mass. -- Chelsea had the ball around midfield holding a 10-6 lead with less than a minute to bleed off the clock to come away with a win over Boston Cathedral Tuesday and head to the Division 4A Super Bowl.
Michael Stellato instructed his team to let the play clock run down to 0 and take a delay of game penalty. When the referees threw the penalty flag, the clock had only 16.5 seconds left on it. Cathedral’s hope of an undefeated season came down to a punt return.
Carlos Bermudez and Geeavontie Griffith set up deep to return the punt. Chelsea did most teams would do in this situation: punt away from Griffith. In what some would consider a break for Cathedral, the ball did not go out of bounds. Rather than having about 10 seconds to go about 70 yards with no timeouts, the punt came to Bermudez outside the right hash mark.
He fielded the punt at his own 30-yard line, and decided to cut back to the left, where there was the most space. Running behind Griffith, Bermudez kept his eyes up field looking for any potential holes in the defense to break through. When he could not find any, he headed for the sideline and cut upfield.
Like dominoes, the Chelsea coverage unit was knocked down by oncoming Cathedral blockers. With no one left in front of him, Bermudez outran everyone else and got into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown as time expired, to give his team the 12-10 win.
“First I saw Geeavontie in front of me, with an amazing block... one down,” he said. “Derek Welcome... another man down. Mohammed Braimah... another man down. Sage Phillipe... another man down. I kept on running, and touchdown.”
“If it wasn’t for my team, for my blockers, none of it would have happened,” he added. “Because of them, we scored.”
Slow start: Until the fourth quarter, nothing seemed to go right for Cathedral (12-0). Its quarterback Matt Owens (2-of-7, 18 yards; 8 carries, 41 yards) had three turnovers in the game (two interceptions, fumble). Griffith also lost a fumble. In the first quarter, after Chelsea (6-5) got on the board first, it was able to recover a squib kick after the ball hit of a Cathedral player. The team was able to recover, however, and score 12 points in under 2:30 to come away with the victory. It had some difficulty stopping the heavy-running attack of Chelsea.
Juan Martinez finished the game with 17 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown for the Red Devils, while Hector Rivera and Raul Flores added 68 and 38 yards on the ground respectively.
“We never gave up, we played great defense,” said Cathedral coach Duane Sigsbury. “We self-destructed on offense, but our defense was unbelievable. I can’t be any happier for our kids.”
Owens, Griffith in the clutch: When a team needs a big play, it more often than not will put the ball in the hands of its best player. That is what Cathedral did when it faced a 4th and 18 from its own 16 midway through the fourth quarter. Owens was called for intentional grounding on the 1st down of the drive, pushing his team back 18 yards. After failing to gain yards on the next two plays, it faced fourth down with 5:35 on the clock. While conventional wisdom said Cathedral could punt and use its timeouts to get the ball back, it lined up in the shotgun.
Again going against the armchair quarterbacks, the team did not pass. Instead, Owens handed the ball off to Griffith, who ran through the defense for 32 yards, giving the team a fresh set of downs and confirming the faith Sigsbury has in his team.
High spirits: What does a coach say to his team when it has 16.5 seconds left on the clock and its only opportunity to score is on a punt return?
“We said, ‘When they make that punt, there is going to be about 18 to 15 seconds left, so we’re going to run Mirror Block where if we block it we’re going to go get it but if not, we’re going to peel off into our return,” said Sigsbury. “They kicked it to Carlos and it was over.”
Dramatic turnaround: This is the first year for Sigsbury as the head coach at Cathedral. After having not made the playoffs since 1994, the team is now 12-0 and headed to the Super Bowl. The players have seen a change in their environment, which has helped them achieve this success.
“Coach Sigsbury and this coaching staff has had the biggest impact on this team by far,” said Griffith. “He makes sure our grades are right, makes sure we’re always at practice on time, make sure we have everything down perfect. He stayed on us day in and day out. He made sure he called us at home to make sure we were in our house on time so we could get ready for the next game or next practice. He just stayed on us the whole time.”
Up next: With the win, Cathedral moves on to the Division 4A Super Bowl on Saturday where it will be Blue Hills, which defeated East Boston 25-22 Tuesday.
“We’re just looking forward to playing on Saturday,” said Sigsbury. “It’s the first Super Bowl in history for Cathedral and we’re looking forward to representing our league and Cathedral the best we can.”
BOSTON CATHEDRAL 12, CHELSEA 10
BC (12-0) 0 - 0 - 0 - 12 --- 12
CH (6-5) 7 - 0 - 0 - 3 --- 10
C - Juan Martinez 76-yard run (Martinez kick)
C - Martinez 33 field goal
B - Geeavontie Griffith 11 run (rush failed)
B - Carlos Bermudez 70 punt return