Two minutes and 36 seconds.
That’s how long Milford held the ball over the final 29 minutes of King Philip’s 31-16 win in the Division 2 state semifinal Friday night at Brockton’s Rocky Marciano Stadium.
Talk about controlling possession.
For the other 26 or so minutes, the third-seeded Warriors’ relentless running game wore down the second-seeded Scarlet Knights defense, embarking on three lengthy, demoralizing touchdown drives to rally from a 16-14 halftime deficit. KP advances to the state championship for the fourth time in the last five MIAA tournaments.
“I’m happy for the win. Happy for the team. Happy for my coaches. The coaches prepared us for everything. I’m just happy,” said giddy KP senior Crawford Cantave, who ran for 102 yards and two scores and snagged an interception.
From the 5:45 mark of the second quarter until the final buzzer sounded, KP (9-1) ran 46 plays to Milford’s 13, which was a stark contrast to how the game started, when the Scarlet Hawks (8-3) used an up-tempo offense to rattle off 20 of the game’s first 21 plays.
“The first half we were playing slow,” Cantave said. “The game was too fast.”
Milford opened the game with a 13-play, 80-yard drive that lasted just 3:14 before Evan Cornelius ran in a 4-yard touchdown. But on KP’s first offensive play of the game, Cantave broke a 70-yard run off a double reverse to tie the game at 7-all.
“They had all the momentum after they drove right down,” junior Ryan “Rudy” Gately said. “[Cantave] came out and one play: touchdown. That was very important for us.”
KP took its first lead, 14-7, late in the first quarter when Gately broke free for a 49-yard score, but Milford scored the final nine points of the half between a 32-yard field goal from Nicholas Araujo and a 37-yard punt block return by Tyler Lane, who also led the Hawks with 101 rushing yards on 14 carries.
But Lane’s punt block created a 5:45 stretch to end the first half in which Milford didn’t run an offensive play. After KP’s nine-plus minute drive to open the second half resulted in a 37-yard field goal by Matt Kelley, the Scarlet Hawks had gone more than 15 minutes without running an offensive play.
When Milford finally got to snap the ball, Crawford intercepted a pass down the right sideline and KP chewed another 4:30 off the clock, going 42 yards for a spinning Gately touchdown.
After Milford spent 90 seconds running eight plays, KP sealed the game with a six-minute, back-breaking drive punctuated by Crawford’s second touchdown of the night.
“Most of the year we’ve had some poor second-half performances,” Gately said after running 21 times for 130 yards and two scores. “This time we came out and had the ball for basically the whole half . . . All the work we do in the summer, just grinding out there, none of us were tired. They were gassed. That really paid off.”
The Warriors — who reached the Super Bowl each year from 2016-18, winning it all in ‘16 and ‘17 — will play at Gillette Stadium (date TBD) against the winner of No. 1 Catholic Memorial and No. 4 Marshfield, who play Saturday (4 p.m.) in Brockton.
“It feels great going to Gillette,” Gately said. “I always wanted to do that when I was younger.”
But first, the Warriors have a Thanksgiving Day showdown with Franklin, the top seed in Division 1, with the Hockomock League’s Kelley-Rex Division title hanging in the balance.
“It feels awesome,” coach Brian Lee said. “I love that we have a humongous Thanksgiving Day game against the third-best team in the state. That’s going to be another big one. We can’t enjoy this for long, that’s for sure.”
MVADA Large Schools
Northeast 34, Shawsheen 13 — Steve Donnelly racked up 207 yards on just 15 carries to spearhead a win for the Golden Knights (8-3) in the semifinals. Donnelly scored on touchdown runs of 58 and 62 yards, and also punched in a 2-yard score. Northeast will play Greater New Bedford in the final Dec. 3 (location and time TBD).
MVADA Small Schools
Nashoba Valley Tech 34, Old Colony 30 — After falling behind, 22-20, in the fourth quarter, Nashoba Valley Tech coach Jesse Fusco implored his team to stop the bleeding and regain the lead.
“I called a couple of timeouts toward the end to just get everyone on the same page and understand that this is a huge game,” the first-year Vikings coach said.
The Vikings (7-3) rode fourth-quarter rushing scores from Randy Delva and Elijah Murphy to come from behind and advance to the championship game against Blue Hills.
“In the fourth we wanted to pound the run and we caught them in some soft coverages because we had been throwing on them earlier in the game,” Fusco said.
Delva, who caught a 14-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, took advantage of the pass-weary coverage and rumbled in for a touchdown on a 42-yard jet sweep. Following a Vikings defensive stand, Elijah Murphy punched in his second touchdown of the day from 25 yards out to seal the win.
NEPSAC Ken Hollingsworth Bowl
St. George’s 21, Tilton 20 — Daimein Garcia stopped the visitors on a potential go-ahead 2-point conversion attempt to secure the victory for host St. George’s (7-2). Alpha Barry scored touchdowns of 4 and 47 yards, and Louis-David Pouliot connected with Diego McCray for a 7-yard score in the win.