FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was the perfect ending to a perfect season, but Beverly High School football fans sure did have to sweat it out at the end.
Beverly completed the first unbeaten season in the program's history when it defeated Natick, 28-21, in the Division 2A Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
Leading 28-21, Beverly looked like it was going to score a game-clinching touchdown, but quarterback David Rollins fumbled the ball on the Natick 3-yard line. Natick took over with 1:19 to play and no timeouts.
The RedhTawks moved the ball to the Beverly 46, where quarterback Troy Flutie attempted two Hail Mary passes that both fell incomplete near the goal line. Defensive back Brendan Flaherty knocked down Flutie's 34th pass attempt, which came on the game's final play.
“We were right there in the end,” Natick coach Mark Mortarelli said. “I'm proud of the way our kids played. We lost to a good team and there's no shame in that.”
Flaherty rushed for a game-high 175 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Beverly completed its season with a 13-0 record.
“It takes a lot of effort and a lot of offseason training,” Flaherty said. “It was good for the defense to end it the way we did, because we've been focusing on the pass all week.”
Flaherty rushed for 112 yards and 15 carries in the second half.
“I thought we did a decent job on him at first, but he did what I was hoping wouldn't happen – he got stronger as the game went on,” Mortarelli said. “He's the real deal on both sides of the ball.”
Flutie tossed two touchdown passes to Brian Dunlap. Natick's other touchdown came on Nicholas Lee's 2-yard run. Samuel Lenson's third PAT kick made it a 28-21 game with 6:52 to play.
The Panthers went on a clock-killing drive on the ensuing possession, but coughed up the ball when Rollins tried to score on a quarterback sneak.
“Thank God they had  yards to go,” Beverly coach Dan Bauer said. “These kids made plays when it counted.”
Flutie completed 21 of 34 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Natick finished 11-2.
“Troy did a great job,” Mortarelli said. “He was right on the money. He had guys in his face and he was still completing passes.”
Kenny Pierce scored two first-half touchdowns for Beverly. His touchdowns came on runs of four and 27 yards. Beverly led 14-7 entering the third.
“These kids worked hard,” Bauer said. “They deserved it.”
The Beverly defense allowed 8.6 points per game during the regular season, and came up with one of the game's biggest plays when defensive back Ryan Shipp forced a fumble midway through the second quarter.
Flutie hit receiver Justin Robinson in stride for a 27-yard pass, but Shipp knocked the ball free when he tackled Robinson on the 2-yard line. Shipp then recovered the ball in the end zone.
Beverly drove the ball 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing possession. Pierce capped the drive with a 4-yard run on a fourth-and-four play that helped the Panthers build a 14-7 lead with 2:54 left in the first half.
“Huge play,” Bauer said.
The Panthers didn't allow more than 14 points in any of their 11 regular-season games, and surrendered 21 points in each of their two playoff contests.
Flutie's second scoring pass to Dunlap was his 35th touchdown pass of the season. It was Dunlap's 18th TD catch and his 30th touchdown. Dunlap caught five passes for 60 yards in the loss. … It was Beverly's second Super Bowl victory in the last three years. The Panthers defeated Somerset 28-20 to win the Division III Super Bowl in 2010. … Flaherty's two TDs gave him 26 for the season. … Natick had a 367-347 edge in total offense. All of Beverly's yardage came on the ground. The Panthers attempted one pass in the game. … Beverly was 3-for-3 in fourth-down conversions. … Natick's Alex Hilger had eight receptions for 113 yards.
BEVERLY 28, NATICK 21
Beverly 0 14 7 7 – 28
Natick 7 0 7 7 – 21
N–Brian Dunlap 10 pass from Troy Flutie (Samuel Lenson kick), 5:38.
B–Kenny Pierce 27 run (Harry Brown kick), 8:36.
B–Pierce 4 run (Brown kick), 2:54.
B—Brendan Flaherty 3 run (Brown kick), 7:06.
N—Dunlap 6 pass from Flutie (Lenson kick), 3:24.
B--Flaherty 4 run (Brown kick), 9:41.
N—Nicholas Lee 2 run (Lenson kick), 6:52.