Joe Fagan summed it up best: “It was the perfect finish to the season.”
The Blue Hills football team had everything to play for Thursday night. A chance to finish the season undefeated. The opportunity to keep the annual Thanksgiving trophy. The Mayflower Athletic Conference championship was on the line. Fagan, a senior running back, had a shot at 1,000 rushing yards in just six games.
Oh, and they could send longtime coach Ed Catabia off with a win.
The host Warriors accomplished all those feats with a 49-6 victory over Bristol-Plymouth on a rainy, overcast afternoon in Canton.
“That’s why we did so well,” said Fagan, who ran through wide-open holes on his way to 242 yards and five touchdowns. “We had something to look up to . . . Leading up to the season we knew it was his last, so we just put everything out there for him.”
Catabia, who was coaching his final game after 13 years at the helm and 42 overall with the program, was quick to redirect the credit to his players.
“The kids earned this,” he said. “The kids did a great job. They’ve been fantastic all year. They’re all coachable. They all wanted to learn every single day. They’re out here at practice minutes after school ends. I attribute the season to them.”
The Blue Hills players weren’t just motivated to send their head coach out with a win, they were also playing to honor their freshman football coach and rugby coach, Matt Siwik, who died in December.
“It wasn’t just for Catabia, it was for Siwik, too,” Fagan said. “He raised all of us. He was our freshman coach. He raised us as his kids.”
For decades, before the final game each season, Catabia has his seniors talk about what football means to them. On Thursday, Catabia spoke about his own connection to the sport.
“I told the kids about life lessons and how football relates to life and variables they have to deal with,” he said. “Football has taught me about discipline, respect, and sportsmanship. I brought up a lot of those concepts and I related them to life.”
Following Catabia’s speech, the Warriors opened the game like a missile, scoring on all four of their first-quarter possessions. Fagan had three of those on runs of 1, 36 and 36 yards. Blue Hills extended its lead to 34-6 on a 6-yard rush by Fagan touchdown early in the second quarter. His final touchdown came on a 39-yard run in the fourth quarter that put him over 1,000 for the season.
“Joe is an extraordinary individual,” Catabia said. “He’s a jokester. He keeps us laughing during practice. He does crazy stuff. He just keeps us going.”
Devlin Young scored twice for Blue Hills, once on a 13-yard run and the other on a 40-yard return following his second interception of the day. Bristol-Plymouth’s lone touchdown came on a 65-yard pass from Sean Cochrane, who finished with 193 passing yards, to Anthony Fratelli in the first quarter.
Catabia started as a volunteer with the Warriors in 1979 while teaching science at the school, just a year after wrapping up his playing career at Boston State College (now UMass Boston). In 1980, he was officially hired as an assistant coach and went on to serve as defensive coordinator.
In 2008, he was promoted to head coach and athletic director, becoming just the third football coach in school history after John Hustak and Vin Hickey. Catabia, 65, plans to stay on as athletic director.
He finishes with a 91-55 record over 13 seasons, leading Blue Hills to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2010 and 2011 and capturing the Division 4A championship with a 16-14 victory over Cathedral in 2011. He also led the Warriors to back-to-back State Small School Vocational championships in 2012 and 2013, finishing a four-year stretch from 2010-2013 with a 40-9 record.
Despite all that success, Catabia never had an undefeated season.
Until 2021, that is.
“It was a good way to finish,” Fagan reiterated.
West Bridgewater 28, Southeastern 6 — Senior Ben Skinner hauled in touchdown passes of 72 and 80 yards from quarterback Nathan Razza, and Will DeLuca (5 carries, 125 yards) rushed for two scores as the host Wildcats (4-2) capped the season with the Mayflower win.
South Coast tourney
While most of the state shifts its focus to spring sports, the South Coast Conference is launching its two-round football playoff.
On Friday, the top seed in the Gold Division, Seekonk (4-1, 4-0 SCC Gold), welcomes in No. 4 Bourne (1-4, 1-3 SCC Gold) in one semifinal matchup, while No. 2 Fairhaven (4-1, 3-1 SCC Gold) will host No. 3 Case (1-2, 1-2 SCC Gold). In the Blue Division semifinals, No. 1 Apponequet (4-1, 4-0 SCC Blue) hosts No. 4 Somerset Berkley (1-3, 0-2 SCC Blue) at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. The Raiders won a coin toss for the No. 4 seed with Greater New Bedford, which was also winless in league play.
No. 2 Dighton-Rehoboth (3-1, 2-1 SCC Blue) will face No. 3 Old Rochester (1-3, 1-2 SCC Blue) at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at Somerset Berkley. The winners will advance to the division championship games the weekend of May 7-8.
Greater New Bedford 4, Fairhaven 1 — Landon Amaral paced the Bears with three goals in the quarterfinals of the South Coast Conference Tournament.
Somerset Berkley 2, Old Rochester 0 — Alex Cook netted both goals for the host Raiders in the South Coast Conference Tournament quarterfinal win. Somerset Berkley will play Dighton-Rehoboth in Monday’s semifinals.
Matt Doherty and Andrew Lin also contributed.