TAUNTON, Mass. –- All the money in Fort Knox couldn’t have bought Nantucket quarterback Taylor Hughes the birthday present he’ll relish for the rest of his life.
Hughes, who turned 18 on Saturday, embraced the Division 5 Super Bowl championship trophy which resulted from a 35-7 conquest of Boston Latin Academy.
Hughes ran 16 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns and was 3-for-3 passing for 105 yards as the Whalers annexed the fourth Super Bowl championship in school history.
Perhaps the one play that underscored Hughes’ mindset occurred in the third quarter with Nantucket (10-2) leading 21-0.
Hughes took the snap and bulled his way eight yards up the middle for his second touchdown and 31st (21st rushing) of the season. (Think running through a brick wall).
“I just was determined to score,” the Mayflower Small Player of the Year said. “It was my last game in high school and I felt nobody was going to stop me.”
The same could be said of the Whalers as a whole since they built a 21-0 halftime lead and never let the Dragons (7-5) harbor any thoughts of a miracle rally.
“Two weeks ago we played (and lost to) Martha’s Vineyard and we didn’t do well firing out,” Hughes said. “Since then, we practiced firing out … punching the sleds around and stuff. We knew we could beat them off the ball so we just ran it down their throats at the beginning.”
Hughes was the first Whaler to run the ball down the Dragons’ throats when, on the third play of the game, he burst through the right side and sprinted 49 yards for a touchdown.
Turning point: After Latin went three-and-out, Zach Moran appeared to fumble Alfredo Perez’s punt with Ernest Kellough scooping up the ball and running 40 yards for an apparent touchdown. But the Dragons were penalized for fair-catch interference which gave Nantucket a first down on its 42.
Four plays later Moran threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Benson on an option play for a 14-0 lead at the break.
“It allowed us to get more relaxed … 14-0 obviously is much easier than 7-0,” Nantucket coach Bill Manchester said. “Jet sweep is a big play for us. When our guys block well, they have to come up and stop the run.
“Andrew did a nice job selling the run and was wide-open.”
Putting the D in defense: Nantucket’s defense contributed two key stops.
The Dragons had a first down at Nantucket’s 28 late in the first quarter but only gained four yards on four plays.
Then, late in the second, Latin had a first down on Nantucket’s 12 but only gained five yards on four plays.
“That’s the coaching,” Hughes said. “We’ve got a play called ‘monster’ where I drop back deep and that just confused them when they wanted to pass.”
“Our philosophy’s been bend but don’t break,” Manchester said. “We know we have to make a team run 15, 18, 20 plays. And our defense has been great all year.
"We know offense wins games and defense wins championships. Our defense is why we’re the Division V Super Bowl champ.”
Point counterpoint: A 71-yard pass from Hughes to Moran set up Nantucket’s third score, a 10-yard run by Codie Perry who finished with 82 yards on 17 carries.
Latin spoiled Nantucket’s shutout bid when it reeled off a 13-play, 67-yard drive in the third which culminated with Kellough’s one-yard run. But Nantucket countered immediately with a fourth-quarter drive that ended with Moran’s one-yard touchdown run.
Considering that as recently as 2008, this once-illustrious program was a shadow of its former self, the championship was especially gratifying.
“As a coaching staff, we knew what the vision needed to be,” Manchester said. “The players wanted to get back to where they knew we could be. They set very high goals.
“It’s not that we re-wrote what the program was. It was (a matter of) dusting off the playbook that worked in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.”
NANTUCKET 35, BOSTON LATIN 7
BL (7-5) 0-0-7-0 - 7
NAN (10-2) 14-7-7-7 - 35
N – Taylor Hughes 49 run (Sam Earle kick)
N – Andrew Benson 20 pass from Zach Moran (Earle kick)
N – Codie Perry 10 run (Earle kick)
N – Hughes 8 run (Earle kick)
B – Ernest Kellough 1 run (Alfredo Perez kick)
N – Moran 1 run (Earle kick)