FOXBOROUGH — The road to a Division 8 state championship for the Randolph football program started with a first-year head coach in early March and a 1-5 record in the Fall II season.
And it ended, with much celebration, Wednesday at Gillette Stadium after Malik White sailed into the end zone with a go-ahead 20-yard punt return with 2:43 remaining to secure a stunning 20-14 victory over South Shore League rival Hull.
It was the culmination for a team under the direction of coach Jonathan Marshall that had a 17-player roster in April, and overcame numerous challenges, roadblocks, and adversity along the way.
“We talked about turning this from a team to a program, we have a middle school team now, a JV team,” Marshall said. “We had 17 kids on this team last year and now we’re Super Bowl champions because they wanted to do it.”
After running the spread last spring, Marshall, a former Marine who previously was an assistant at Framingham and Holliston, switched to the double wing this fall.
The 10th-seeded Blue Devils (8-4) completed just one pass — a 16-yard toss to White — but the senior back churned out 110 yards on 24 carries, and QB Sebastian Jouissance blasted in with a pair of 1-yard keepers.
“”We were just able to run the ball in the second half to keep it out of a high-powered offense’s hands, and so it really was complementary football and it was a team effort,” Marshall said. “The offensive line cleared out those holes and allowed the running backs to hit them hard.”
In a 14-14 game in the fourth quarter, Hull (9-4) snapped from its 15-yard line on a fourth-down punt. But with Randolph applying pressure, the boot off the foot of Blaise Belmarsh caromed off the helmet of his blocker.
“”I heard the ball hit the back of someone’s helmet and I looked up and I saw it coming my way, I got it and found a hole and all of a sudden I was in the end zone,” said White, who accounted for nearly half of the Blue Devils’ 250 yards of total offense.
In a game that included various momentum swings and the Blue Devils facing a 14-8 deficit entering the fourth quarter thanks to the wizardry of Hull junior John Gianibas (9 catches 125 yards; 13 rushes, 72 yards), Randolph never wavered in its plan or belief in each other.
“Every team stretch we do starts with us chanting ‘Believe’ and I think that’s where our toughness starts,” said Marshall, whose Blue Devils lost their Oct. 1 regular-season meeting to Hull, 26-6.
But the start of the team’s in-season growth truly began with its first-round matchup in the Berkshires at Lee.
“We were given the furthest route to travel in [the first round] out to Lee and we knew once we got in the playoffs that we could do this, and with that win I think we started to believe,” Marshall said.
That mental toughness was on full display Wednesday, with Randolph staying level-headed and committed to its run game, allowing for Jouissance to score a pair.
For White, the impact of his winning return was not about himself, but more about putting the emphasis on the program he leaves behind as a state champion.
“My brother is the starting running back on the middle school team, he’s in eighth grade,” White said, “and I’m glad I could set a new bar and standard for him for when he gets here.”
Randolph 20, Hull 14
Division 8 Super Bowl
at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
Randolph (8-4) 0 8 0 12 — 20
Hull (9-4) 0 14 0 0 — 14
H — Jaden Stilphen 5 run (Logan Chenette kick)
R — Sebastian Jouissance 1 run (Malik White run)
H — John Gianibas 40 pass from Luke Richardson (Logan Chenette kick)
R — Sebastian Jouissance 1 run (rush failed)
R — Malik White 20 punt return (rush failed)
RUSHING — H, John Gianibas 13-72, Jaden Stilphen 13-37; R, Malik White 24-110, Greg Izedonmwen 12-76, Makhai Barnes 5-28, Sebastian Jouissance 8-17, Shaquon Rush 1-3.
PASSING — H, Luke Richardson 13-25-2—154; R, Makhai Barnes 1-1—16, Sebastian Jouissance 0-3—0.
RECEIVING — H, John Gianibas 9-125, Nick Tiani 2-16, Tyler Sordillo 1-8, Austin Bongo 1-5; R, Malik White 1-16.
Colin Bannen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.