WRENTHAM, Mass. – King Philip had the chance to run out the clock in the closing minutes of Friday night’s Div. 1A South semifinal at Macktaz Field, but Shane Frommer was stopped for a two-yard loss on fourth and two from the Marshfield 17. The Rams had one last chance after the turnover on downs to try and even the score.
Marshfield, which had beaten the Warriors two years ago on the same field in the Div. 2 South final, started the drive with an incomplete pass and then a pass batted down by senior Brett Mazur. On third and 10, Jackson Phinney (8-28, 119 yards) picked out Christian Friedel for 16 yards. Two plays later, Phinney found Mike Catanoso for 39 yards and first down at the KP 26.
The Warriors needed to make a play and on second down it appeared they had when John DeLuca and Frommer had Phinney wrapped up for a big sack, only to have the quarterback somehow release the ball for an incomplete pass. Phinney scrambled on third down and was hit hard after four yards by the far sideline.
The officials kept the clock winding and as the final seconds ticked off the Rams barely got a play away. The ball was up for grabs near the goal line and Andrew Dittrich came up with the interception that sealed the victory. KP held on 14-7 and will play for the sectional title for the second time in three seasons.
“You’re up 14-0, you think you’re going to win,” said KP coach Brian Lee, “and all of sudden they come back because they’re tough, they’re a great team, and you can get back down. Just to be hanging in there, still making plays, still chopping is why they’re special.”
KP came into the game with a plan to slow down the high-powered Marshfield offense, which scored 41 last week against Mansfield, and it worked to near-perfection. The Rams were held without a point until midway through the fourth quarter and had only eight first downs (two in the first half).
“We just had a good game plan,” said Lee of the defensive effort. “We had a great week of practice, really felt prepared. I thought we all felt confident in what our defense could do. We were probably more concerned with what we were going to do on offense, which we struggled to move the ball but it’s tough to finish drives.”
The Warriors took advantage of a short field to take the lead in the first quarter. Frommer (23 carries, 108 yards) returned Marshfield’s second punt 21 yards down to the Rams 29. Giovanni Fernandez (10 carries, 47 yards), Frommer, and Alex Olsen (11 carries, 49 yards) got the ball to the one where junior quarterback Brendan Lydon punched it in.
Lee explained, “Field position is great. We’ve been playing good special teams and it just helps out. It allows you to be patient. We don’t have any problem running the ball and waiting for a good opportunity.”
KP also had a long drive late in the second quarter that used up nearly seven minutes off the clock. The Warriors went from their own 13 as far as the Marshfield 37 on 12 plays before a nine-yard loss ended the scoring chance. Chris O’Neil closed the half with an interception.
Only seven points were on the score board but the game was being played at KP’s pace. The Warriors were methodical on offense, keeping the ball on the ground and keeping the Marshfield offense standing on the sidelines. Lee credited his offensive line of Matthew Tobichuk, Paul Macrina, Carl Sanuth, Cameron Gately, and Daniel Loewen for helping to win the time of possession battle.
“I’m very proud of them,” Lee said. “We ate a lot of clock up, which helped slow down that offense. Even though we weren’t finishing drives, we still took an offense that is very high-powered and kept them off the field.”
The teams traded turnovers on downs to start the second half, but on its second possession KP put together a drive that looked at the time like it put the game away. The Warriors went 67 yards in 13 plays with Frommer, DeLuca, Olsen, and Fernandez all getting carries. After Lydon was ruled down inside the one of a sneak attempt, Olsen got the touchdown on fourth and an inch to make it 14-0.
Just when it looked as though the game was won, Marshfield’s offense woke up. The Rams went 71 yards in nine plays and used little more than two minutes off the clock to cut the KP lead in half with 7:04 remaining. A Jack McNeil end around for 35 yards was the big play and Phinney capped the drive with a two-yard keeper.
As the Rams lined up for the kick-off, they stayed bunched up around the kicker and surprised KP with an onside kick right down the middle of the field. Marshfield recovered and the visiting crowd found its voice. But three plays later Ethan Dunne turned momentum right back around to the home team with a juggling interception in front of the Marshfield bench.
“I screwed that up that was on me,” said Lee of the onside kick, “and Ethan bailed me out. It’s a nice treat to have when a player does that and we’ve been all over them about losing the turnover battles and they really stepped up this week.”
KP tried to run out the clock and Lydon earned a first down on fourth and three with a hard count that got the Rams to jump offsides. Three plays later, the Marshfield defense made a play to give its offense one last chance. The KP defense was waiting and Dittrich made the final play to end the comeback bid.
“It feels good,” said Lee of being back in the South final. “I’d feel better if we were playing someone easy. Tomorrow we’ll go see them and get to work and think about that. We’ll enjoy tonight and go from there.”
King-Philip (8-0) will host the winner of Wellesley and Bridgewater-Raynham on Friday night.