BROCKTON — Last season, despite having a 2-0 record in Big Three play and beating New Bedford, Brockton did not advance to the playoffs because of a conference rule that prohibited a sub-.500 team from making the postseason.
The Boxers, who finished 5-6, watched as the Whalers took their place at 5-5.
Saturday afternoon at Marciano Stadium, the No. 12 Boxers (7-3, 2-0) made it clear the conference title belonged to them this year.
Led by quarterback Austin Roberts’s 258 rushing yards and three touchdowns, Brockton beat New Bedford, 35-12, to clinch the program’s first Big Three title since 2009.
“It’s a great feeling,” Roberts said. “There was a real bitter taste in our mouths after last season, so I was really glad we got it this year.
“We’ve been waiting for this game for a long time, and I’m really excited with how we came out. I’m really proud of these guys.”
The Boxers jumped to a commanding lead in the first half, as Roberts racked up 143 yards and two touchdowns.
The senior quarterback scored on a 30-yard run in the first quarter, and running back Moise Edouard made it 12-0 with 9-yard score in the second quarter.
On the first play of Brockton’s next possession, Roberts went up the middle and broke loose for a 79-yard score that made it 19-0.
As the half expired, senior Levon Merian kicked a 20-yard field goal to give the Boxers a 22-0 lead.
New Bedford finally got on the board when senior running back Mike LaJoie (15 carries, 104 yards) scored on a 4-yard run.
On New Bedford’s next possession, Edouard intercepted quarterback Mike Rapoza’s pass on the Brockton 39. Two plays later, Roberts broke three tackles on his way to a 53-yard score that put Brockton up, 29-6.
“[Roberts] is a special kid — just a phenomenal effort,” Brockton coach Peter Colombo said. “We feed off him, and his personality has become our team. [New Bedford] was concerned about the edges, and Auggie exploited the middle.”
The Whalers (4-5, 0-1) answered on their next drive when Rapoza hit Steven Azor with a 9-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone.
But the next time New Bedford took the field, Brockton defensive back Micah Morel intercepted Rapoza and returned it for a 26-yard score to seal the victory.
“It felt great – just the right play at the right time,” Morel said. “They took our playoff spot last year because we couldn’t finish strong, but we’re coming down strong with four wins in a row and are prepared to take it [on Thanksgiving] against a good [Bridgewater-Raynham] team.”