Marshfield rode an eight-game winning streak into the MIAA Division 2 playoffs, but the Rams had not yet seen a team as physical or talented as Catholic Memorial.
To take down the two-time defending state champions — the same program that handed Marshfield a 41-0 defeat in the state semifinals two years ago — the Rams had to deliver their best performance of the season.
And that started by going up-tempo.
Saturday at Bridgewater-Raynham, coach Chris Arouca and his staff stuck with their fast-paced offense. The third-seeded Rams ran nearly 80 plays and racked up 415 yards, resulting in a 52-40 semifinal victory to line up a championship matchup against top-seeded King Philip (Gillette Stadium, TBD).
“We were just going as fast as we could to wear them down,” said Arouca. “We tried to make it difficult for them to see what they were looking at.
“The pace only works if we get first downs. We were able to keep getting first downs. It’s how we’ve been playing since August and I don’t know how many teams in Massachusetts play like that.”
Going fast allowed senior tailback Davin True to rack up 155 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns in the first half and help the Rams take a 28-27 lead. Keeping their pedal to the floor, the Rams (9-2) controlled possession and forced two turnovers while holding the Knights to 6 points throughout most of the second half.
“Our pace definitely made an impact. CM doesn’t really play in the second half [due to blowout wins], but we do every week. It’s built up our endurance,” said True.
Marshfield leaned on the ground game early, then turned to junior quarterback Tor Maas (12 of 22 passing, 147 yards, 2 TDs) in key situations. Maas, a first-year starter, has gained mastery of Arouca’s complex offense, to the point that the coach gives him input on the game plan.
“If our players aren’t comfortable, we aren’t going do it,” said Arouca. “If Tor comes to me on Wednesday and says this play isn’t working, we’ll scrap it.”
In a pivotal fourth-down call at the 1, Marshfield went down the play sheet for a creative play call. Tight end Brady Crowley motioned left, came back across the formation after the ball was snapped, and caught a quick pass from Maas to push the lead to 52-33 with three minutes remaining.
The Rams had to weather an early storm to get into position for the upset. Catholic Memorial started hot, per usual, and took an early 14-7 lead, with Marshfield’s sole score coming on Giovanni Joseph’s early 90-yard kickoff return.
Moving the ball into scoring position at a breakneck pace to set up True’s first score, from 12 yards out, gave Marshfield the required confidence to trade blows with a state power.
“That [drive] was huge,” said Arouca. “It gave our offense confidence and it gave our defense confidence. Our guys on offense are pretty good. They’re going to keep scoring.”
With Maas targeting talented juniors such as Charlie Carroll and Jake Brilliant, the Rams could be a contender next year. But the focus is on the traditional Thanksgiving matchup at Duxbury for the Patriot League Keenan title, followed by KP in the Super Bowl.
“You never know if you’ll make it back [to the state championship], so we’re just enjoying the ride” said Arouca. “I’ll worry about next year on Dec. 3.”
▪ Super Bowl matchups are set, with times and dates soon to be announced between Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at Gillette Stadium. Here are the matchups:
DIVISION 1: St. John’s Prep (11-0) vs. Xaverian (9-2) — Prep has won 18 straight games and is seeking a fourth Super Bowl win in five seasons.
DIVISION 2: King Philip (11-0) vs. Marshfield — KP is playing in the D2 Super Bowl for the sixth time in seven seasons, but looking to win a title for the first time since 2017.
DIVISION 3: Milton (8-3) vs. Walpole (8-3) — These Bay State Conference foes played six weeks ago, with Walpole coming out on top.
DIVISION 4: Duxbury (9-1) vs. Scituate (8-3) — All three of Scituate’s losses came against Super Bowl-bound teams. Scituate and Duxbury met in the D4 Super Bowl in 2021.
DIVISION 5: Hanover (11-0) vs. Foxborough (10-1) — These teams have been the cream of the crop in D5 all season.
DIVISION 6: Salem (9-2) vs. Fairhaven (10-1) — Salem last made a Super Bowl in 1999 and Fairhaven went the following year, in 2000.
DIVISION 7: Uxbridge (11-0) vs. Amesbury (9-1) — Amesbury faces Newburyport in the 100th edition of that Thanksgiving rivalry before battling undefeated Uxbridge at Gillette.
DIVISION 8: West Boylston (11-0) vs. Carver (11-0) — These teams have been dominant all season, with Carver averaging 45.5 points per game and West Boylston coming off a D7 Super Bowl.
▪ In the John Papas Bowl, Bo MacCormack rushed for 431 yards and eight touchdowns, with a 40-yard passing score and an interception on defense, to lead BB&N over Tabor, 63-43, and lift the Knights to their first NEPSAC title since 2018 … Behind a strong performance from senior quarterback Michael Landolfi, Lawrence Academy held off St. Paul’s, 28-15, to win the newly named Kevin MacDonald Bowl … Max Stevelman tossed five touchdown passes, including scores of 58, 59, and 70 yards to Amir Lindsey, to lead Rivers past Pingree in the Bob Souza Bowl.
Correspondent Nate Weitzer contributed to this story.