SOMERSET — Nearly one year ago, the Somerset Berkley football team took to its home field in search of its second perfect regular season in three years. The only team standing in its way was Bishop Feehan, the reigning Eastern Athletic Conference champion.
The Shamrocks used three second-half touchdowns to spoil the festive atmosphere in Somerset, and the defeat forced the previously 9-0 Raiders from the playoff picture with their lone loss.
The heartbreak continued early into the season for the Raiders as the junior-heavy squad dropped a trio of decisions to Lincoln-Sudbury, Archbishop Williams, and Dighton-Rehoboth by an average of 8 points.
But with another shot at the EAC crown, the young Raiders refused to be fazed by the challenge.
Junior running backs Chip Wood and Mark Tonucci combined for 172 yards and all four Raider scores in a 25-6 win over Bishop Stang Saturday afternoon. Somerset Berkley (4-3; 4-0) clinched its first EAC title since 2010 and an automatic berth in the Division 3 Southeast playoffs.
“I think the kids last year made these kids better,” said Somerset coach Nick Freitas. “They were the JV kids last year, the sophomores and juniors not getting a lot of playing time on varsity, but taking their licks against [the varsity team] every day. I think that’s helped them out.”
Having allowed one touchdown or less over its previous four games, Bishop Stang (4-3; 2-2) chose to puts its defense on the field early as the Spartans elected to kick off to begin the game.
But the Spartans failed to touch the ball in the first quarter, as a 19-play drive by Somerset came to an end on the first play of the second quarter. Tonucci rolled right and jogged into the end zone untouched from 3 yards out for a 6-0 Raider advantage.
Somerset’s front seven benefited from a strong wind at its back in the second quarter, forcing Stang into consecutive four-and-out possessions. Following a 12-yard Spartan punt to its 38-yard line, Somerset ran three plays before Wood sliced through the middle of the field for a 32-yard touchdown run.
The Raiders padded the lead with their third touchdown just before the half.
From the Bishop Stang 46- yard line, quarterback Joe Fingliss connected on a screen pass to Wood for a 23-yard gain. Three plays later, Tonucci crashed the line and spun out of two tackles before carrying a third Spartan defender into the end zone. The 14-yard run gave Somerset a 19-0 lead at the break.
Stang looked to get on the scoreboard with the opening possession of the second half.
After marching 57 yards on 11 plays, the Spartans were looking at fourth and 9 from the Raider 11. Somerset’s Nate Medeiros sacked Matt Golden for a loss of 10 yards, but the Spartans were awarded a second chance when the Raiders were called for holding. Senior Jared Zaniewski then plowed in from the 6 to cut the deficit to 19-6.
Tonucci added his third score of the game as he pushed the pile for an 8-yard score midway through the fourth, clinching the victory.