Mansfield Comeback Thwarts Reading in Super Bowl
Big gamble from own end zone doesn't pay off for Reading.
The Reading Memorial High School football team looked poised to collect its second straight Div. 2 Super Bowl championship, but Mansfield clawed back from 19 points down in the second half to end the 25-game win streak for the Rockets with a 29-26 victory at Gillette Stadium Saturday night.
The Rockets got to the Super Bowl by taking a gamble in their semi-final game against Dracut, but it was a gamble from their own end-zone that may have cost them dearly at a second straight championship victory.
On second-and-10 from their own 1 with less than two minutes to go in the game, Brian Bourque dropped back to pass from his own end zone and went deep for Sean Gildea. Two Hornets' defenders trailed Gildea down the field and Dan Gilmore intercepted the pass and brought it down to the 2-yard line with 1:32 left in the game.
A play later, Jamel Marshall (18 carries, 91 yards, 2 TD) plunged in to the end zone for the 27-26 lead, and his 2-point conversion rush gave the Hornets the 29-26 lead.
Head coach John Fiore, who was heralded after his call earlier in the week, explained his decision to throw the ball deep in his end zone.
"We were probably to aggressive down in our goal line," he said, "but we were thinking about putting the game away."
He added: "We felt if we ran a seam we could execute that real well and really put the game away. They ran with him."
The Rockets dominated the first half and led 26-7. They scored on all four possessions and forced three turnovers on defense. Brian Bourque was a perfect 6-for-6 for 75 yards with a score through the air and rushed 10 times for 75 yards and two scores to pace the Rockets.
But the offense didn't have the same punch in the second half, and the Hornets packed plenty of it. The Rockets only racked up 54 yards in the second half, while Mansfield put up 241 yards.
The Hornets needed only three plays to record two touchdowns to get right back in the game to begin the second half. George Busharis hit Jeff Hill for a huge 68-yard touchdown play on the Hornets first play from scrimmage of the third quarter.
The Rockets were forced to punt on the next drive, and again, the Hornets struck big for 55 yards from Busharis to Hill to the 5-yard line, and Marshall took care of the rest to pull the score to 26-21.
Bourque finally got the offense moving in the right direction, but Dave Eberhart picked off an errant throw across the field on third-and-9. The Hornets took the ball all the way down to the 2-yard line of the Rockets, but Reading stood tall with a goal-line stand.
Gildea made a huge interception for the Rockets at the 1 to set up the controversial pass call.
The Rockets came up short, but it has been a successful three-year stretch that saw them reach two Super Bowls and one semi-final game under Fiore.
"I'm very proud of our kids," said Fiore. "They played their butts off all year. It hurts right now, but we were one of two teams left."