FOXBOROUGH — “For Nelly! For Nelly!”
This was the resounding chant as Middleborough hoisted the Division 6 Super Bowl trophy Saturday morning at Gillette Stadium following its commanding 43-20 win over previously undefeated Littleton.
The chant was in memoriam for Scott Nelson, a former teacher and coach at the high school who was a football assistant for 36 years. A month into retirement, he died unexpectedly on July 17 at age 58.
Quarterback Evan Gwozdz fueled the victory with four touchdown passes and two rushing scores, directing the Sachems (10-3) to their first Super Bowl title since 1983. The senior said the championship was “a dream come true . . . couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
“We held up [Nelson’s No. 57] jersey at the end. We’ve been wearing his number all year, he’s been a huge inspiration for all of us, so this one was for him.”
Littleton (11-1) struck first, marching 75 yards on a 20-play drive that chewed up nine minutes and 11 seconds in the first quarter, with quarterback Luke Elliott scoring on a 1-yard sneak for a 6-0 lead.
The Sachems answered on their first series in the second quarter.
Gwozdz (15-of-17 passing, 205 yards) connected with Colin O’Brien from 4 yards out for the tying touchdown. The Sachems, who recorded interceptions on back-to-back possessions, surged ahead on Gwozdz’s 19-yard strike to O’Brien before the half.
Ahead, 35-20, with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Middleborough got the ball back and put the game away.
Senior tailback Jeremy Soule broke off a 16-yard run to ignite a drive — capping his 12-carry, 102-yard performance — and setting up the final touchdown, a 9-yard run by Gwozdz.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Soule. “We’ve been talking about this since last July, ever since we got together we’ve been like, ‘We’re going to Gillette this year.’ And we made it happen.”
Littleton coach Mike Lynn said Middleborough “had more weapons than we did. We didn’t match up that great with them, I was fearful of that. Their team speed was a little overwhelming for us.”
Middleborough coach Pat Kingman knew adjustments had to be made after Littleton controlled the ball for nearly the entire first quarter. But he was confident in his offense’s ability to find the end zone.
“We knew we were going to score points,” said the seventh-year head coach. “We scored points all year long. I think the thing that helped us out was that they decided to onside kick it [twice, plus one short kick]. If you’ve seen us play enough, you don’t give us 50 yards.”
And at the mention of Nelson, his former colleague and friend, Kingman was at a loss for words.
“Yeah, you know . . . I can barely talk about that right now,” said Kingman, fighting back tears.
He had little time to talk — Kingman received a well-deserved Gatorade bath by jubilant players and assistants following the trophy ceremony.