This article was written by Dan Libon (Featured Noontime Sports Writer)
Foxborough, MA – It was a tale of two teams at the Massachusetts Division II Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, between the Mansfield Hornets and Reading Rockets. At the end of the first half and trailing the Rockets by a gigantic margin, Mansfield head coach Michael Redding wasn’t sure if they could even come back.
“I thought that touchdown at the end of the half was the killer. I kinda walked in thinking that was one too many.”
Of course, these young men play the game of football for a reason.
With the running game being displayed early and often, Reading’s defense decided to put on a show themselves too. With three turnovers off of Mansfield’s four possessions, Reading was putting on a defensive clinic for 40-straight minutes. Yet, while Mansfield was turning over the ball constantly at times, they did show signs of life. A halfback pass from running back Jamel Marshall to wide receiver Jeff Hill, led to a 47-yard touchdown reception. It would be the most excitement that the Mansfield offense would display in the first half, as Reading dominated the entire 20-minutes of the first half.
After Mansfield took a 7-6 lead in the first quarter, Reading’s Nick Scali returned a kickoff for 72 yards, which set up the Rockets offense on the Mansfield 17 yard line. Unable to be successful on the PAT after the first Redding touchdown, the team resorted to a variety of two-point conversions for the remainder of the game in a move that would come back to haunt them in the fourth quarter.
Reading quarterback Brian Bourque threw a touchdown to help his team take the lead, 12-7, but after another Mansfield turnover with 5:24 left in the first half, it would lead to another Reading touchdown with 1:01 remaining. Then, a 34 yard interception by Larry Gilligan with 19 seconds left, set up Reading’s final touchdown of their season, making it 26-7 at halftime.
Beginning in the third quarter, Mansfield defense set up the beginning of a Hornet comeback and special Super Bowl memory. On offense, their passing attack that was nonexistent in the first half began to show signs of life thanks to a Jeff Hill touchdown pass, which cut the lead to 12 points. The 68-yard reception would be Hill’s second touchdown reception of the game and three minuets later, the lead would be cut to five points.
After a Mansfield interception in the closing seconds of the third quarter, Reading’s dominance started to not look as strong as it did in the early minutes of this particular Super Bowl.
With less than six minutes remaining in the contest, Mansfield had a chance to take the lead, but Reading was able to stop them from scoring. Reading’s defense struck again with an interception at their own 1-yard line and 20 seconds later, Mansfield’s Dan Gilmore intercepted a pass, which gave his team another shot to score the go-ahead touchdown.
Jamel Mashall rushed for a one-yard touchdown and two point conversion to give Mansfield a 29-26 lead. An onside kick recovery by Mansfield was then enough to end the game and win their fourth championship in eight seasons.
This comeback can only be describe as a total team effort and after getting the major defensive stops, which were needed greatly, Mansfield attacked with a passing game led by quarterback George Busharis and wide receiver Jeff Hill. Busharis threw for 231 yards in the second half after throwing for only 26 in the first half. Hill caught 5 catches for 191 yards with 135 yards coming in the second half. Jamal Marshall also rushed for 62 yards and for a touchdown.