WORCESTER, Mass. -- A pair of missed extra points and the spectacular play of Doherty's Isaac Yiadom tripped up St. Peter-Marian, giving the Guardians their second consecutive one-point loss to a Division 4 Central opponent.
Just a week ago, SPM fell to regional power Shepherd Hill on a last-minute touchdown and 2-point conversion. This week, the Guardians' inability to convert point-after tries were their undoing in a 20-19 loss to Doherty (6-1).
Things started off as well as SPM (5-2) could have hoped, with Doherty fumbling the opening kickoff and senior Ray Sarkodieh recovering for the Guardians at the SPM 44. SPM sophomore quarterback Seamus Leary would make the Highlanders pay, orchestrating a 10-play, 56 yard drive that ended when senior Tyis Boykin punched it in from the one-yard line.
"It didn't start well, right from the get go," Doherty coach Sean Mulcahy said. "We knew it was going to be the kind of game where you're going to have your ebbs and flows. We fumbled the opening kick, so not a good start, but I thought we responded well ... It was our athletes against their athletes, and we were one point better today."
Doherty would answer later in the first, as quarterback Luke Brennan tossed a bubble screen out to Yiadom for 25 yards. On the next play, he looked up top for 6-foot-4 senior receiver Alfred Adarkwah, drawing a 15-yard pass interference penalty. Moments later, Adarkwah would finish the drive, catching a high fade route in the left corner of the end zone for a 9-yard score.
"Alfred's the man," Yiadom said. "Luke just threw it up to him in the right spots and he went up and got it. That's what he does in practice, he goes up there and makes big plays."
But, as the recurring theme went, the Highlanders missed the extra point. SPM led 7-6 at the end of the first.
In the second, the Highlanders would again threaten, driving to the Guardian 11. But SPM would flush Brennan from the pocket, forcing him to throw back across his body. Guardian senior linebacker Brandon O'Connor capitalized on the mistake, intercepting the ball at his team's eight-yard line. But, a three-and-out by the Guardians again gave Doherty outstanding field position, and Yiadom began to take over.
The Highlanders lined up the Boston College commit in the Wildcat, and he rushed for a quick 10 yards off the right side. Two plays later, and Yiadom again ran the keeper, this one a sweep off left tackle, for a 36-yard touchdown. The Highlanders' two-point try came up short, but Doherty still took a 12-7 lead into halftime.
"We saved (The Wildcat) for this game particularly," Yiadom said. "It's something that comes out when we need it… It worked out real well on sweeps on the opposite side of the trips (formation)."
The Guardians wasted no time getting back into things in the second half. On the second play of the third quarter, Leary tossed it out right to Boykin on the bubble screen. An excellent seal block from receiver Dan Hendrickson gave Boykin some space, but it was his juke back to the middle against Yiadom that sprung the speedster for a 55-yard touchdown. The Highlanders would miss the PAT and go up 13-12.
"Our wide receiver blocked it perfectly, our quarterback threw it exactly where he was supposed to, I just did my part," Boykin said.
St. Peter-Marian forced a three-and-out, and appeared poised to seize momentum. The pendulum would swing back to Doherty, however, when Highlander senior Jahkari Carpenter intercepted Leary on a roll-out pass intended for Boykin.
Five plays later, Brennan found senior Mitch Celaj for a 20-yard gain to the Guardian 27. Just before the end of the third quarter, Yiadom again lined up in the Wildcat, this time punching in a 5-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion to put the Highlanders up, 20-13.
Leary quickly answer for the Guardians, finding senior Trevor Linga down the left sideline for a 48-yard completion. Moments later, Boykin went up over the pile, getting spun around for a one-yard score. But, the extra point would veer left, and SPM still trailed 20-19.
The Guardians would get one final chance with 1:58 to play, after a Boykin punt return set them up with the ball at their own 43. But four consecutive incompletions by Leary, due largely to outstanding coverage by Yiadom and senior Shawn Jackson, sunk the Guardians.
"We knew they were gonna’ have to go deep, and we had the wind," Mulcahy said. "That was big for us. Seamus has had a great year, but we wanted to put a little heat on him, and that's what we did, and again (in the secondary) it was our athletes against their athletes, and I thought we did a great job."
The Road Ahead: As big of a win as it was for Doherty, both teams know there is a good probability they will see each other again. Both the Guardians and Highlanders enter the Division 4 Central playoffs next week as favorites, along with power Shepherd Hill and upstart Hudson.
It’s a loaded bracket, but Boykin is eager to get a little payback on Doherty and Shepherd Hill.
"We're gonna’ see the two teams we lost to again," an emotional Boykin said. "We can't sleep on any of the other teams though. D4 is a tough bracket."
"I think we'll see them again, probably in the (Central Mass championship)," Yiadom said. "Shepherd Hill and them are two of the best D4 teams, not just in Central Mass, but I think in the whole state. I think Central Mass has a lot of talent. We have respect for them, they have respect for us. It was a great game."