FOXBOROUGH — Under the old MIAA football playoff format, Swampscott, Bishop Fenwick, and even defending Division 1 state champion St. John’s Prep would not have had a chance to play in a Super Bowl this weekend at Gillette Stadium.
But thanks to the new format — implemented in 2013 — those teams were able to navigate their regional brackets to earn a shot at glory, and their players soaked in the fruits of their hard work during Wednesday’s Breakfast of Champions at Gillette Stadium.
“I don’t know much about the old format,” said Swampscott senior captain Dylan January. “All I know is we’re getting the opportunity to compete for a state title. And that’s all I really care about.”
The annual tradition was postponed one day because of bad weather and moved to the upper level of the Putnam Club, away from the playing field. After MIAA executive director Bill Gaine unveiled the new Harry Agganis Trophy for state champions, Patriots great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett addressed the players.
“What are you playing for?” asked Tippett. “Some of you guys that came ‘this’ close last year, some of you are strapping on [the pads] for the last time. Whatever it is, cherish it.”
Catholic Conference rivals St. John’s Prep and Catholic Memorial are meeting for the fourth time in two seasons and for the second straight year in the D1 Super Bowl, increasing motivation for both sides. For Prep, dropping a 34-32 decision to CM earlier this season could’ve spelled the end to their title defense under the old format, but instead it fueled the fire.
“The last thing they could do is put a chip on our team’s shoulder,” said Prep quarterback Matt Crowley.
Eagles senior captain Anthony Fagan added, “In some ways, it’s good that we lost [to CM]. We told the team after the game that we don’t want this feeling ever again and we need to work our way to get back at [CM].
“And this is where we want to be. We’re playing our best football at the right time, and it’s going to be a battle Saturday.”
The home teams, as determined by a coin toss, will be West Bridgewater (Division 8), Leicester (D7), Bishop Fenwick (D6), Swampscott (D5), Plymouth South (D4), Springfield Central (D3), Mansfield (D2), and Catholic Memorial (D1). Duxbury was the only team to win the coin toss and choose to be the visiting team, on the sideline opposite the fan sections.
It will be the first Super Bowl appearance for D6 South champion Ashland since 1995, and Swampscott is making its first appearance as a program since 2007. The rest of the field is made up of programs that are well-versed in the experience at Gillette, led by CM and Prep.
“I think it’s the two best teams in the state,” said Prep coach Brian St. Pierre, “and that’s the way it should be in the state title game.”