WESTWOOD — For quarterback Matt Jeye, it’s truly about how you finish, not how you start.
During Holliston’s first visit to Westwood this fall, it was Jeye’s last-second field goal attempt that fell short, pushing the game to overtime. It was his 2-point conversion try in the second overtime that fell just short of the right pylon, enabling Westwood to win the game by scoring and converting its conversion.
And it was Jeye who brought his team full circle Friday night in the Division 4 South semifinals as the Panthers joined their fans in celebration on the field after a 35-20 win over their Tri-Valley League rivals.
“I can’t even describe it,” said Jeye, fighting off the emotions of the moment. “It’s awesome. Being a captain of this team, being a leader, I love it. I’ve loved every second of it.”
Jeye finished 12 of 26 through the air, collecting 232 yards and accounting for three TDs, including a key one in the fourth quarter. He also converted all five of his point-after attempts.
“He’s the leader of this football team,” said Holliston coach Todd Kiley. “Everybody looks to him. He put the team on his back and got after it. He’s calm, cool, and collected, and he made the plays when he needed to.”
Leading, 14-6, after two quarters, Holliston (8-1) took little time in adding to its lead in the third. A 37-yard connection between Jeye and wide receiver Zach Elkinson brought the Panthers to the Wolverines’ 13. Two plays later, the tandem connected again, as Jeye threaded the needle in finding Elkinson for a 14-yard score.
Westwood (7-2) responded with a scoring drive to make it 21-12. Senior quarterback Bo Berluti rushed six times during the 11-play drive, collecting 37 yards. Berluti capped the drive by taking a crushing hit in the pocket by Holliston’s Joe Bellomo, but standing long enough to connect with senior receiver Connor DiVincenzo for a 32-yard score.
After the Panthers punted on the ensuing possession, Berluti elected to run the ball up the middle. He rolled off the pile in front of him, shook a Panther defender, and sprinted 54 yards for the touchdown. After connecting with receiver Chris Hanley for the 2-point conversion, the Wolverines had cut the Holliston lead to 21-20.
But after that, Holliston’s defense locked down and the offense began to pull away. At the start of the fourth quarter, a delay-of-game penalty followed by a false start pushed Holliston’s first-and-goal back to the 13-yard line. Facing fourth and goal from the 13, Jeye scrambled as the pocket fell apart and connected with senior Paul Beling in the end zone, pushing the Panthers’ lead to 28-20.
With just under five minutes remaining and the Wolverines driving, Colman Regan picked off Berluti at the Panther 13. Three plays later, Elkinson faked a double reverse in the backfield, keeping the ball and rolling down the left sideline for an 82-yard touchdown run. With less than four minutes remaining, Holliston had pushed the lead to 35-20.
“Look at this,” Kiley said as friends and family surrounded the Panthers’ final huddle. “We have kids that took the train from college to get here tonight.
“And we got redemption.”