FOXBOROUGH — The forecast called for snow, but it was thunder and lightning that delivered a second straight Division 8 Super Bowl title to St. Bernard’s.
Junior backfield partners Tyler Thibodeau and Nico Mancini have gone back-and-forth all year, leading the Bernardians in rushing, but it was Mancini — the “lightning” in their self-appointed nicknames — who ran for three touchdowns in a 30-8 victory over West Bridgewater on Friday night at Gillette Stadium.
Holding a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter, the 5-foot-7-inch running back took the handoff on the opening play of a drive and bolted through the line for a stunning 72-yard score.
“All credit goes to the O-line on that, just seeing them down the field, it opens things up,” said Mancini. “They were also keying up [Thibodeau] up the middle, and they can only take away one of us.”
Mancini (17 rushes, 128 yards) had opened the scoring early in the second quarter from 8 yards out. The junior took a handoff to the left and followed his blockers well, turning the corner and punching it in untouched.
“They got us a couple of times [with the sweep],” said West Bridgewater coach Justin Kogler. “We were misaligned and got out-leveraged. They had an extra guy and we didn’t see it in time.”
With West Bridgewater (12-1) down two scores, sophomore Aiden Baker received the kickoff deep in Wildcat territory and broke through the return team, dragged down at St. Bernard’s 40-yard line. West Bridgewater quarterback and senior captain Matt Lavoie completed a 28-yard pass to Tyler Stone on fourth down to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Devin Georgantas.
But the Bernardians of Fitchburg (9-4) were just getting started. Mancini consistently found himself in space, most often on a sweep play with two pulling blockers to the left. Thibodeau usually handled the inside handoffs. Mancini punched in a 1-yard rush in the third quarter, and Thibodeau (23 rushes, 104 yards) got on the score sheet with a 3-yard run late in the fourth.
St. Bernard’s enrollment makes the win even more impressive: The school has fewer than 70 boys enrolled in grades 9–12. About half are on the football team.
“Our school is going through a great transformation,” said St. Bernard’s coach Tom Bingham. “We’re thrilled to have everyone rally around us. For a small school, we had a great fan section over there, so we’re really proud of that”
Despite the loss, Lavoie said that the team he leaves behind can “definitely be right back here.”
“[Coach Kogler] coming in his first year and bringing us to the Super Bowl is unheard of,” the senior captain said. “Him doing that, these kids being under his discipline, it’ll bring them up as high as they can be.”
St. Bernard’s 30, West Bridgewater 8
at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
St. Bernard’s (9-4) 0 14 8 8 — 30
West Bridgewater (12-1) 0 8 0 0 — 8
SB — Nico Mancini 8 run (Vaughn Randle kick)
SB — Nico Mancini 72 run (Vaughn Randle kick)
WB — Devin Georgantas 4 run (Ben Skinner pass from Matt Lavoie)
SB — Nico Mancini 1 run (Tyler Thibodeau run)
SB — Tyler Thibodeau 3 run (Tyler Thibodeau run)
RUSHING — SB, Nico Mancini 17-128, Tyler Thibodeau 23-104, Domenic Cuevas 4-55; WB, Ben Skinner 2-41, Matt Lavoie 10-26, Devin Georgantas 5-15, Ben Smith 6-4
PASSING — SB, Domenic Cuevas 0-1-0-0; WB, Matt Lavoie 5-16-0-71
RECEIVING — WB, Tyler Stone 2-39, Ben Skinner 1-26, Aiden Baker 1-5, Devin Georgantas 1-1.
Seamus McAvoy can be reached at email@example.com.