HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Blue Hills wins thriller, 52-51, to claim small-school state voke bowl – The Patriot Ledger


CANTON — The Blue Hills High football team ran and ran and ran and then ran some more.

When there was finally nowhere left to run on Friday night, the Warriors got to stand still and admire how far they had come.

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Blue Hills players, coaches and fans eventually made their way to the fleet of buses and cars awaiting them in the Canton High parking lot. But they took their sweet time about it. And rightfully so.

Countless hugs and high-fives. Endless photos and cell-phone videos. Everyone lingered on the field, wanting to remember what they felt like after witnessing Blue Hills capture the MVADA Small-School Vocational Super Bowl with the wildest of wins — 52-51 over Nashoba Valley Tech.

“It’s a dream come true. And it’s their dream come true,” first-year head coach Ed Madden said of his players claiming Blue Hills’ first title since back-to-back voke bowl wins in 2012 and 2013.

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In a game that featured a staggering 955 combined yards of offense — the Warriors alone rushed for 402 yards — and saw touchdowns being scored at a dizzying clip, top-seeded Blue Hills (11-2) led 6-0, 36-35, 44-43 and by the final score. Second-seeded Nashoba (8-4) led 7-6, 14-6, 21-14, 28-20, 35-28, 43-36 and 51-44.

Down by that 51-44 score, the Warriors responded one last time when senior quarterback Anthony Graziano, of Holbrook, scored on a 1-yard sneak with 2:25 left.

“We always joke about how does a 150-pound QB sneak it?” Graziano said with a laugh. “But I snuck right through that hole.”

On his 18th birthday, Eric Mann swept left on the two-point play, beat a defender to the edge and dove into the pylon for the winning margin. It was his third two-point conversion of the night.

“I was not taking a loss on my birthday,” said Mann, a senior captain from Holbrook. “There’s nothing better than that. I just wanted it more than anyone else, I guess. I was not getting stopped there. No way.”

Blue Hills wasn’t stopped often, scoring on six of its 10 drives and utilizing the pulverizing ground game that’s been part of the program’s DNA forever.

“Hey, you stick to what works,” Mann said. “It never fails us.”

It was that way under legendary coach (and still athletic director) Ed Catabia, who led the Warriors to an EMass Super Bowl crown in 2011 and those two voke bowl wins. And it’s that way under Madden, who played under Catabia and served as an assistant for 15 years before taking over this season.

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” said running back Jake Reissfelder, a 5-4 junior from Dedham who rushed 23 times for 290 yards and four TDs. “We sure do know how to run it. We’ve been running this offense for almost 40 years now. And it’s served us well.”

Blue Hills graduated its top three backs (Joe Fagan, Joel Delhome and Devlin Young) and four of its five starting offensive linemen from last year’s 6-0 Fall II team but didn’t really miss a beat. Reissfelder, Mann and sophomore Caiden Montas (Holbrook) each rushed for more than 1,000 yards.

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“Yeah, we just stick to the program,” Madden said. “The linemen believe in the program, and the backs believe in the linemen, and the quarterback believes in Blue Hills football. As a unit, their belief is so strong that they can do anything.”

Reissfelder had scoring runs of 46, 30, 20 and 4 yards and also ripped off a 47-yard run down to the Nashoba 15 on the winning drive. A penalty for a horse-collar tackle moved the ball to first-and-goal from the 8. Two plays later, Blue Hills had the winning points.

Reissfelder gave all the credit to the offensive line — senior left tackle John Ierardi (Avon), senior left guard Joe Deascentis (Randolph), sophomore center James Bennett (Norwood), senior right guard Ryan Chandler (Braintree), senior right tackle Ethan Demeo (Dedham), sophomore swing tackle Henrik Hafenrichter (Dedham) and senior tight ends Thomas Taylor (Holbrook) and Joseph Dicalogero (Canton).

That group paved the way not only for Reissfelder but for Mann (13 carries for 65 yards and a TD) and Montas (13-53).

“I love them so much,” Montas said of his O-linemen. “I wouldn’t trade them for nothing in the world.”

Ierardi, the lone returning starter on the line, said he wasn’t worried about Blue Hills suffering a drop-off in the trenches. “It happens every year,” he said. “The offensive line comes together.”

And has fun doing it.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I would take it over being a running back any day. Or going somewhere where they run a spread. It’s a lot more fun here.”

Both teams managed to score non-offensive touchdowns. Randy Leblanc ran a kickoff back 75 yards for a TD to give Nashoba a 28-20 halftime lead. The Vikings almost took a two-score lead early in the third quarter, but Montas stepped in front of a pass from Nashoba QB Murphy Senecal (12 of 22, 223 yards, TD) and returned the pick 96 yards for a score.

“It came to the perfect spot,” Montas said. “He threw it right to my hands. Ran down there and didn’t look back.”

Senecal added 87 rushing yards and a TD on six carries, and Elijah Murphy, wearing No. 99, ran 26 times for 171 yards and two scores for Nashoba.

Blue Hills surrendered 509 yards but made the plays it needed to make — whether it was a fumble recovery on the goal line just before the winning score, or a 31-yard pass play (Graziano to Taylor) to set up a TD, or Mann making what turned out to be the game-ending tackle at the Blue Hills’ 4 in the closing seconds. Nashoba tried to spike the ball to get one last play in, but time expired.

In the end, the Warriors got their trophy. And plenty of time to savor it.

“Very proud of my boys,” Montas said. “We held it down. Blue Hills! You know it!”