FOXBOROUGH — With under four minutes to go, Stoneham’s hopes looked dashed after a costly fumble near midfield. But on the next play, hope was restored.
Stoneham junior Chris Belliveau forced a fumble to get the ball back and Christos Argyropoulos scored the winning touchdown on a 42-yard run to help Stoneham beat Old Rochester, 26-20, to capture the Division 6 Super Bowl title on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Argyropoulos. “We were one game short last year. We’re a great team, it’s basically winning it with your family, and when you do that there’s no better feeling in the world.”
Argyropoulos fumbled on his previous carry, giving the Bulldogs the ball with a 2-point lead. The Stoneham senior captain had been feeling under the weather throughout much of the second half, yet still managed to get 113 yards on 19 carries in the game.
“You hope that your great player can be great in the right moment,” said Stoneham coach Bob Almeida. “He was lightheaded, very dizzy as well. He just turned on the jets and went, broke a tackle, and that’s what you expect the great players to do.”
After getting the ball back on Argyropoulos’s fumble, Old Rochester running back Desmond Dias ran for 9 yards on the Bulldogs first play, until Belliveau emerged with the ball at the end of the play.
“Personally it looked like he was down,” said Bulldogs coach Justin Kogler. “Ultimately I’m not on the field reffing the game, so I don’t know. Going into the game, playing these guys, you can’t turn the ball over.”
The Spartans (12-1) scored the last 14 points in the game, including a touchdown as time expired in the third quarter by sophomore running back Chris Dragone, who played in place of an injured Seth Russell.
The Spartans lost Russell for the game early in the first half to a leg injury, forcing Stoneham to make adjustments on both sides of the ball.
“That was a really big blow for us,” said Almeida. “Chris came in and made some huge plays for us and for him to step up in that situation was incredible.”
Old Rochester quarterback Cole McIntyre was 6 for 11 with 166 yards and two touchdowns. But on the ground, the Bulldogs (11-1) gained only 95 yards on 26 total carries.
The Stoneham defense forced three fumbles and an interception and recovered two onside kicks as well to keep the Bulldogs offense on the sidelines for much of the game.
“Sometimes one mistake will make the difference in the game,” said Almeida. “There were so many of those today in this game and fortunately we prevailed.”
PIVOTAL PLAY: With Old Rochester leading after forcing a fumble late in the fourth quarter, Stoneham lineman Chris Belliveau stripped running back Desmond Dias to give the Spartans possession in the Bulldogs’ territory.