FOXBOROUGH – It’s hard to remember that a decade ago, the King Philip football program was a perennial doormat in the Hockomock League, with little on the horizon, before the arrival of Brian Lee.
That was not lost on the 12-year head coach as he held back tears at midfield under the Gillette Stadium lights on Saturday night, his Warriors a state champion for the first time in school history.
KP’s rise to power under Lee has been pure coaching, and in the ultimate poker match with Reading’s John Fiore, Lee pushed all his chips to the middle of the table as the Warriors prevailed 21-18 for the Division 1A title.
So he had a pointed message for coaches across the state who were once in his shoes.
“It’s taken 12 years to build this,” Lee exclaimed, choking up. “If you’re a young coach out there, and you say ‘Our school doesn’t have it’, ‘This is not the right place’, ‘We can’t win here’ . . . You’re doing yourself a disservice. You can win anywhere, and KP is proof of that.”
Hanging on to a 7-6 lead out of the half, KP (12-0) took a deep shot downfield after a Reading three-and-out, quarterback Brendan Lydon (11 of 15, 258 yards, 2 TDs) hitting tight end Brett Mazur (two catches, 131 yards, TD) for 62 yards to set up first down at the Rockets 11.
Four plays later, he caught the Rocket defense off-guard for a touchdown on fourth and 1. Following a 9-yard rush, Lydon hurried the offense back to the ball and executed a silent cadence for a 2-yard sneak.
“He made up all that [stuff] on his own,” Lee said of Lydon. “His leadership came out tonight.”
But with a chance for the Warriors to twist the knife on their lead late in the third quarter, Reading (8-4) punched back, with Cole Pappalardo picking off Lydon in the end zone.
Five plays into the ensuing drive, Fiore dialed up his most ambitious call of the night, a double-reverse pass off of a jet sweep that found Eric D’Agostino all alone deep downfield for a 50-yard touchdown pass from receiver Matt Panacopoulos, cutting the lead to 14-12.
KP threw another haymaker on the ensuing drive to make it a two-score lead, this time a 69-yard touchdown pass to Mazur in which the tight end managed to slip behind the secondary bending a seam route.
To which, of course, Reading had another counter-punch, this one a 63-yard pass from Corey DiLoreto to Nick DiNapoli (14 carries, 115 yards plus three catches, 94 yards) that cut the lead to 21-18 after a third straight failed conversion.
But from there, the Warriors were able to run down the final few minutes of the clock to seal victory, capping the first undefeated season in school history.
For a team that normally passes less than 10 times a game, 258 yards passing is a season-high for the Warriors. Both teams were 2 for 4 on fourth downs, and combined for just three penalties totaling 40 yards.
King Philip 21, Reading 18
at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
King Philip (12-0)
R — Nick DiNapoli run (rush failed)
KP — Ethan Dunne 79 pass from Brendan Lydon (Cole Baker kick)
KP — Brendan Lydon run (Cole Baker kick)
R — Eric D'Agostino 2 pass from Matt Panacopoulos (pass failed)
KP — Brett Mazur 50 pass from Brendan Lydon (Cole Baker kick)
R — Nick DiNapoli 69 pass from Corey DiLoreto (kick failed)
RUSHING — KP, Giovani Fernandez 4-57, John DeLuca 6-24, Shane Frommer 10-22, Alex Olsen 2-3, Brendan Lydon 5-(-10); R, Nick DiNapoli 14-115, Jack Geiger 4-16, Corey DiLoreto 4-(-5)
PASSING — KP, Brendan Lydon 13-16--258; R, Corey DiLoreto 5-14--116, Matt Panacopoulos 1-2--50
RECEIVING — KP, Brett Mazur 2-131, Tyler Jenesky 3-46, Giovani Fernandez 3-31, David Morganelli 1-14, Ethan Dunne 1-14; R, Nick DiNapoli 3-94, Eric D'Agostino 2-56, Jack Geiger 1-16