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John Gianibas dominates second half as Hull returns to Division 8 Super Bowl

The Pirates rode their “Bas” all the way back to the Super Bowl.

Behind a dominant performance from senior John Gianibas, top-seeded Hull pulled away from No. 5 Old Colony, 35-12, Friday night in a Division 8 semifinal at Sandwich High.

Gianibas was particularly potent in the second half, when he ran for 172 of his 271 yards and scored three of his four touchdowns, including a 64-yard back-breaking scamper after the Cougars had pulled within 21-12 early in the fourth quarter.

“It feels great,” said Gianibas, who now has eight touchdowns in three playoff games. “It’s almost been 365 days. I haven’t been this happy in a long time.”


After running for 99 yards and a score to stake the Pirates (11-0) to a 14-6 halftime lead, Gianibas took control after intermission, rushing for 77 yards on an 81-yard drive in the third quarter, capped by his 1-yard touchdown plunge for a 21-6 lead entering the fourth quarter.

“John is a phenomenal athlete,” said Hull coach Mike O’Donnell. “If we can get the front seven or eight blocked and give John open space, he’s very talented.”

But Old Colony (9-2) was able to move the ball all night, surprising Hull with an efficient passing game that saw quarterback Matt McGuiggan complete 9 of 10 passes for 110 yards after completing just 38 passes previously this season. McGuiggan found his favorite target, Shawn Markham (6 catches, 87 yards) for a 29-yard touchdown pass in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but Gianibas answered with a 64-yard touchdown run on Hull’s very next play.

After an Old Colony fumble, Gianibas added a 15-yard score to salt away the win with 6:12 remaining.

“We knew that was the guy,” Old Colony coach Brandon Mendez said. “I said before the game that was the one guy we were going to have to stop. He’s a great player. He’s difficult to tackle. He broke a couple of long ones in the second half and that was the story of the game.”


It will be Hull’s fifth Super Bowl trip as it looks to avenge last year’s 20-14 loss to Randolph. The Pirates will face KIPP Academy, which beat Oxford 34-33, in the D8 Super Bowl on Dec. 2 or 3.

“We knew we were going to be back,” Gianibas said. “Not trying to sound cocky, but we had that determination and we had the pieces.”

KIPP Academy 34, Oxford 33 — With the program’s first trip to the Super Bowl on the line, KIPP senior Juan Setalsingh delivered.

Setalsingh tossed five touchdown passes and made a game-sealing interception as the seventh-seeded Panthers (7-4) held on for a thrilling win over third-seeded Oxford (9-2) in a semifinal at Ayer Shirley High School.

The Pirates surged to a 19-7 first-half lead, but KIPP charged back for a 27-19 lead in the final minute of the third quarter on Setalsingh’s 57-yard pass to Morenel Castro. After a pair of KIPP turnovers in the fourth quarter — a fumble recovery and interception — the Pirates took a 33-27 advantage, but Setalsingh cooly responded by tossing the winning touchdown to Castro, their fourth scoring connection of the night.

“He’s one of the best football players I’ve ever been around,” KIPP coach John Rabbitt said of Setalsingh. “Nothing rattles him, whether it’s an interception, a bad read, or being down by a couple touchdowns.”


Globe staffer Brendan Kurie reported from Sandwich, Globe correspondent Mitch Fink contributed to this report.

Brendan Kurie can be reached at