FOXBORO, Mass. – For the second straight year, the King Philip football team went toe-to-toe with the best team in Massachusetts on the biggest stage, but unfortunately for the Warriors, the result was the same.
Catholic Memorial blanked KP over the final two quarters and scored a pair of second half touchdowns to pull away for a 27-7 win to claim their second straight MIAA Division 2 state championship and extend their win streak to 29 straight games.
“It’s just a lot to hang with for a long time,” said King Philip head coach Brian Lee. “Our kids have such great heart and work so hard, and we’re gifted with great coaches, but in the end, it’s just too much to hang with for that long. We couldn’t bail out our defense enough. We couldn’t run the ball and get sustained drives. It was hard, it was tough, they are so fast and converge on the ball so it was just tough.”
The Warriors were in a good spot after 24 minutes of action, trailing by just a score at 14-7 going into the halftime break. The Knights scored on their opening drive – 10 plays for 80 yards, helped along by a 30-yard fumble recovery by an offensive lineman – and then again on their fourth series, punching in a touchdown with just 16 seconds left in the halftime.
KP bounced back after going three-and-out on its opening series. The defense, which played well for all four quarters, forced a turnover on downs on CM’s second drive to get the ball back. The Warriors marched 60 yards on 14 plays to find the end zone.
Rudy Gately (14 carries, 43 yards) converted a third down with a 6-yard carry running behind senior center Michael Murphy and right guard Logan Van Vaerenewyck, Will Astorino also moved the sticks with a 4-yard burst up the left behind Luke Danson and Sean King, and two plays later Gately got his biggest run of the game for 16 yards. A roughing the passer flag kept KP’s drive alive and moved the Warriors inside the 10-yard line.
The drive stalled inside the 5-yard line but KP elected to go for it and after not finding an open receiver, junior quarterback Tommy McLeish kept it himself and dove across the goalline for a 4-yard touchdown. Matthew Kelley’s extra point got KP within a point, down 8-7, with 9:49 left in the second quarter.
KP’s defense once again forced a turnover on downs but the CM defense stood tall and forced a punt from the Warriors. The Knights covered 54 yards in seven plays, going with play action on first down as freshman quarterback Peter Bourque found Maxwell Tucker for a 23-yard strike. The two-point attempt was picked off by KP sophomore Aiden Astorino, but couldn’t be returned.
Despite trailing 14-7 at half, the Warriors were set to receive the second half kickoff.
“Just keep doing what we were doing,” Lee said of the halftime discussion. “We were in it, we were hanging in there. We knew we needed to get a little more going. It was kind of the same thing last year, in the second half we get tired running guys on and off. They wear you down. They’ve got some humongous tackles, some serious players and it just wears you down.”
A strip sack on third down put an end to KP’s first drive of the second half and set CM up at the KP 40-yard line. Despite good field position, the CM offense couldn’t crack the Warriors’ defense and seniors Will Astorino and Carson Meier dropped CM running back Carson Harwood in the backfield for a turnover on downs.
KP was able to get a first down on the ensuing drive on a penalty but an interception by Tucker stopped the Warriors. That set up CM’s third scoring drive as JC Petrongolo hit Harwood for a 22-yard touchdown with just 1:22 left in the third quarter.
The Warriors had to punt on their first series of the final quarter and the Knights cashed in just four plays later. Meier had a tackle for a loss on first down and an incompletion on second down – due to pressure from Chris Sesay – set the Knights up for 3rd and 11 but Bourque hit Jaedn Skeete in stride down the left sideline for a 31-yard touchdown and a 27-7 lead with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter.
“These kids come out and know what they are going up against and they sat in there and fought,” Lee said. ”And they did it a bunch of times this year. We had some really big wins, had a few losses mixed in, but you have to be, and I am, so proud of what they’ve accomplished. No matter what you’re doing in life, you’re trying to maximize what you are and what you can be. Nobody wants to be average, and these guys didn’t want to be average. They didn’t want it to be a rebuilding year, and they came back to Gillette. I’m so proud of them.”
Kyle Abbott had a first down run and McLeish had a couple of QB sneaks on fourth down to keep the drive alive and move the chains. A 12-yard pass from McLeish to senior Will Laplante earned another first down and moved KP into the red zone. But the Warriors couldn’t finish the drive and turned it over on downs.
“For them to work and get back here, to have the kind of wins they did, to take the steps to put themselves back here and have another chance at this is very, very impressive,” Lee said. “When I look at what our ceiling was and how we smashed through it, and willed ourselves back here, that’s a tribute to the kids and their work.”
King Philip football finishes the season at 9-3.