St. Bernard’s Beats Lunenburg in Central Mass. Title Game
LEOMINSTER -- Execution, plain and simple.
Moving the ball at will and containing the opposing offense on practically every series did the trick for new Central Mass. Division 8 champion St. Bernard’s Saturday morning, as the Bernardians soundly downed old Thanksgiving Eve rival Lunenburg, 44-7, to win the title at wind-swept Doyle Field Saturday morning.
The Bernardians (9-1), who were the second seed in Division 8′s four-team playoff and were Division 6 champions three years ago, now advance to the state semifinals at a site to be determined, where St. B’s will play two-time Western Mass. champ Hoosac Valley for the right to represent the area west of Interstate 495 in the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 1.
Hoosac Valley (7-2) defeated Lee, 16-14, at Williams College Friday night for the Hurricanes’ second consecutive Western Mass. title.
Lunenburg (7-3), which had earned the top seed in Central Mass., will now prepare for the Thanksgiving Eve tilt with Quabbin Regional.
Longtime Bernardians bench boss Tom Bingham couldn’t have been happier with the triumph.
“The kids came out today, we were looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s always special to play in the (championship) game here at Doyle, and I think the kids played well today. They showed up, and I think they executed.
“We’re thrilled to have (the Division 8) title. We’re absolutely thrilled. We have 35 kids playing football in our school. I couldn’t be any more proud of them, or any happier for them.”
Longtime Lunenburg coach Steve Boone acknowledged how tough it was to move the ball against the Bernardians, but said the defeat should not define nor take anything away for LHS’ season.
“I’m proud of the way the kids finished; they played hard until the end,” Boone said in the tunnel, all while the oak leaves flung themselves around the Sacred Acre. “I just told them we played with adversity all year long. No excuses about anything, but it finally caught up with us.
″(St. Bernard’s) is a very good football team, an explosive offense, defense, a lot of athletes, and they executed very well.”
St. B’s held the Blue Knights to 193 yards of offense, while pouring on 308 yards of offense of its own to put this championship on ice by the time the two teams went to the locker room at halftime.
In addition, the Bernies kept the Knights to the minimum number of plays for most of the first half, as LHS was 1 of 6 on third down through the first 22 minutes.
“We upset their timing a little bit,” Bingham said.
The first quarter was a scoreless war of attrition, as neither side got anything going: Lunenburg’s first series was a three-and-out, and St. Bernard’s had moved the ball fluidly until a holding penalty on fourth-and-3 pushed the Bernies back to the Knight 47. An incomplete pass ended that drive.
Lunenburg would gain its initial first down as Chris Costich gained 6 yards, but the Bernardian defense held firm on a pair of incomplete passes.
Lunenburg would then punt it down to the St. Bernard’s 1-yard line, the Knights barely keeping it in play.
“The first quarter, we were playing conservative,” Bingham said. “We felt if we were going to see something we hadn’t seen before, we were going to see it early in the game, so we were feeling out. As time went on, we got comfortable. We made our adjustments and moved on.”
From there, St. Bernard’s marched 99 yards in 10 plays, eight of which to end the first quarter.
The next 11:15, though, saw the points come in bunches.
On the second play of the second quarter, Domenic Cuevas (8 carries, 69 yards) gave the ball to Walter Morales Jr. (12 carries, 71 yards) on the inside handoff. He went up the middle before cutting right, scoring from 14 yards out at the 10:25 mark.
Cuevas added the conversion run, and the rout was on.
Big in the drive? A 22-yard keeper by Cuevas that saw the young quarterback weave his way to the 45. Three plays later, he kept it again, this time for 24 yards.
“Their offense is made by their backs,” Boone said. “They’re elusive. There’s a million things you can say (about them); they’re good.”
“Dom Cuevas is getting more and more comfortable running the offense,” Bingham praised. “He had good command of the offense today.”
The Blue Knights then saw Costich pick up a 16-yard gain once they got the ball back, and then the senior QB connected with Zach Shaw for a gain of 8 to the Bernardian 44. But that was as far as they went, as the next throw found itself tipped by a Blue Knight receiver and into the hands of Morales, who would bring it all the way back for the 64-yard pick-six.
Max Bigelow added the conversion run to double the Bernardian lead, 16-0.
“We were moving the ball,” Boone said of that series. “It tips off one of our kid’s hands, (Morales) was there. The breaks go one way, then they go the other way.”
After LHS punted on its next series, St. Bernard’s needed five plays to score with the short field in front of it.
After Cuevas connected with Dazeen Figueroa on third-and-12 for a gain of 8 to the Lunenburg 12, Cuevas went to Figueroa again. This time, Cuevas play-faked and went out on the waggle to the left. Figueroa shook his mark and dashed left, standing all alone in the end zone for the 12-yard scoring strike that made it 22-0 in favor of the Harvard Streeters.
“That’s one of those things; play-action is good for us,” Bingham said. “Running the Wing T, that’s four different guys on each play you have to account for. The coaches upstairs saw it developing; (Lunenburg) kept inching up, and we felt like we had it.”
That was your score at halftime, but it didn’t stay that way too long into the third: St. Bernard’s had won the coin toss and deferred. The second half opening kick went to Domenic Valera at the 34, and he would head right and follow the blocks all the way to the end zone.
Bigelow’s conversion run gave St. B’s a 30-0 lead 15 seconds into the second half.
Cuevas would make it 38-0 with a 1-yard TD run late in the third, before Nicholas Mancini scored from 17 yards away early in the fourth.
Lunenburg got on the scoreboard late, as Costich found Mason Infantino for a 26-yard scoring strike.
Blue Knights 7
St. Bernard’s (9-1) 0 22 16 6 -- 44
Lunenburg (7-3) 0 0 0 7 -- 7
SB -- Walter Morales Jr. 14 run (Domenic Cuevas run), 10:25
SB -- Morales 64 interception return (Max Bigelow run), 8:20
SB -- Dazeen Figueroa 12 pass from Cuevas (pass failed), 4:41
SB -- Domenic Valera 66 kickoff return (Bigelow run), 10:45
SB -- Cuevas 1 run (Morales run), 3:41
SB -- Nicholas Mancini 17 run (run failed), 9:20
L -- Mason Infantino 26 pass from Chris Costich (Cooper Mathews kick), 4:45