BRAINTREE, Mass. -– Sharon was far from an offensive juggernaut, but was extremely opportunistic and composed when it mattered in the program's first playoff appearance last night.
Forcing a red zone fumble on a punt-return for the winning score and stuffing a late conversion attempt, Sharon (9-3) edged Pembroke (7-4), 7-6, at Braintree High to advance to the Division 3 Super Bowl, its first Super Bowl berth in school history.
The Eagles, who combined for only 20 yards in the second half, will play Wayland (9-3) on Saturday.
“We have been preaching all year for a big play to happen on special teams and we have not had it yet,” said Sharon coach Dave Morse. “They stayed in their lanes and did their job. It was their time to shine.”
Sharon's Brad Schiff forced the important fumble on a reverse attempt by Pembroke which fellow senior Tobenna Modebelu recovered on the Titans' five-yard line. Senior Sean Asnes finished a four-yard sweep two plays later for a 7-0 Sharon lead at 5:14 in the third.
“We do situational football in practice to prepare for these different situations,” said Morse. “We have a lot of good weapons on offense. They kept their composure throughout and made plays when they had to.”
With Sharon pinned on its goal line with 5:40 remaining in the game, Pembroke forced a punt to start its final drive on the Eagles' 31-yard line. Junior quarterback Corey Brandon hit a seven-yard bootleg screen-pass to teammate sophomore Jake Coughlin to cut the margin to 7-6 with 1:09 remaining.
However, a short post-pass conversion attempt by Brandon fell off the hands of fellow junior Tom Johnson.
“We faked off tackle (on the score) because defensively you have to play for the run,” said Pembroke coach Bob Bancroft. “Coughlin catches the ball he just does extra stuff with it. We always hand off on (punt returns).”
After a 48-yard punt return by senior Nick Burns put the Titans on the Eagles 32-yard line with 34.2 seconds remaining in the third quarter, an illegal substitution set Pembroke up with fourth down and goal line on the Sharon 13-yard.
Titans' Senior Brian Tinkham scrambled 12-yards on a dive play, but fell just short as he hit Sharon defensive wall along the one-yard line.
Fall of the Titans: Pembroke looked to score with four minutes left in the first quarter when junior quarterback Corey Brandon nailed senior Nick Burns for a 23-yard streak pass in the endzone. However Burns was called for a 15-yard pass interference penalty while scrapping the receiver to kill the 39-yard drive.
The Titans drove 48-yards on its next drive to reach the Eagles'12-yard-line, including a pair of option pitches to seniors Brendan Morse and Nick Burns for 15- and eight-yards, respectively. After dropping three yards on a quarterback keeper, Brandon overthrew a corner pass toward a double-covered Burns in the endzone on a fourth down and 13 yards with 1:27 left in the first half.
Repeat Mistakes: Pembroke looked to avoid the mistakes they made in the program's first playoff appearance in a 20-12 loss to Oliver Ames last year.
However they dropped 35-yards on five penalties mostly in big moments and turned the ball over twice.
“I thought we would stay away from those mistake being our second time here,” said Bancroft. “However it was not like we were committing unsportsmanlike (penalties).”
Day for the Defense: Sharon senior Sean Asnes totaled 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season, but was held to 10 carries for 34 yards and one touchdown and one catch for 21 yards.
Tinkham (1,728 rushing yards this season) was held to eight yards in the first half and took nine total carries for 46 yards.
SHARON 7, PEMBROKE 6
PEM (7-4) 0 0 0 6 -- 6
SHA (9-3) 0 0 7 0 -- 7
SH -- Sean Asnes 4 run (Eric Lesser kick)
PB – Jake Coughlin 7 pass from Cory Brandon (Pass failed)