CARVER — Liam Appleton was familiar with Cohasset’s offense. He just hadn’t led the huddle as a varsity quarterback.
After starting at running back all season, Appleton moved over to quarterback for Friday night’s Division 7 state semifinal in place of junior signal-caller Will Baker, who was sidelined with bumps and bruises he sustained last week in the team’s quarterfinal victory over Hamilton Wenham.
The spotlight of making his quarterback debut against a South Shore League rival, with a Super Bowl berth on the line rival, wasn’t too much for Appleton. The sophomore threw for a touchdown and ran for another to lift sixth-seeded Cohasset to a 14-8 victory over No. 7 Mashpee at Carver Middle High School.
“He’s a heck of a specimen,” Cohasset coach Pete Afanasiw said of Appleton. “We missed him running the football out of the backfield, but we were able to capitalize on his throwing. We had some really critical third-down, fourth-down conversions.”
Cohasset (8-2) will visit Hull on Thanksgiving morning and then meet either No. 4 Northbridge or top-seeded Wahconah in the Division 7 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium (TBD). Mashpee (8-3) will host Sandwich on Thanksgiving in its season finale.
Appleton (12 of 16, 184 passing yards) opened the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown pass to senior Lucas Najjar with 9:24 left in the second quarter. He extended the Skippers’ lead to 13-0 when he ran for a 4-yard score on a QB scamper with 2:14 remaining in the first half.
Appleton’s rushing touchdown came two plays after he found junior Jamie Smith down the sideline for a 41-yard strike with Cohasset facing third and 4 at its 40-yard line.
“I mean, who knows [Appleton] can throw like that?” Mashpee coach Matt Triveri said. “That kid’s their starting tailback, he’s only a sophomore, and he throws rockets all over the field.”
Mashpee senior QB Brady Johnston ran for a 15-yard touchdown and then threw a shovel pass to classmate Kayden Eaton on the ensuing 2-point conversion to cut Cohasset’s lead to 14-8 with 1:01 remaining in the third.
The Falcons offense didn’t see the field in the final 3:53 of action after fumbling a handoff exchange at midfield.
Cohasset junior Thomas Hansen intercepted two passes—bringing his season total to eight, a school record.