BURLINGTON – There was just no stopping the Bernardians.
Behind stellar offensive line play, third-seeded St. Bernard’s run game proved too much for No. 2 Cohasset to overcome on Friday night. The Bernardians scored four rushing touchdowns en route to a 32-19 Division 7 Semifinal victory at Burlington High School.
“Beat a team from Eastern Mass. and the defending state champion, that was the ultimate test for us,” St. Bernard head coach Tom Bingham said. “We got here and felt like (running the ball) was our plan and we were going to do it. The children are very proud of it and they did it. I couldn’t be more proud of this effort.
The Bernardians – winners of nine straight games – advance to the Division 7 final, an all-central affair at Gillette Stadium as top-seeded West Boylston took care of business against No. 4 Amesbury, winning 33 -20 Friday. It is the first place for the state title for Saint-Bernard since 2019 and the fourth since 2015.
St. Bernard took a 16-6 lead after and led 32-12 at halftime. The Bernardians didn’t let go after the break, using pitch play to control the clock and keep the Skippers offense off the pitch.
Damien Jones rushed for 173 yards on 23 carries, scoring three times for the Bernardians. Antonio Mancini added 170 yards on 29 touches, adding a touchdown. The Bernardians did not attempt a single pass during the game, instead putting the ball in the hands of their senior running backs.
“I think we took a bit of an exception when we heard about the dynamic duo (from Cohasset). (Will Baker and Liam Appleton) are special, but I think our two are also very special,” Bingham said.
Cohasset senior quarterback Will Baker did everything he could to keep his team in the game, rushing for scores of 1 and 31 yards in the first half, but the Skippers had trouble struggled to get the passing game started as St. Bernard applied pressure and beat several. balls.
The Skippers finally broke through in the passing game in the fourth quarter, as Baker found Charlie Donovan for a 28-yard strike with nine minutes left to cut the Bernardians’ lead to 32-19. But Cohasset couldn’t recover an onside kick attempt and Saint-Bernard ran out of time.
“I’m going to give (St. Bernard’s) all the credit in the world. They have two very good backs and a line that was over us by 75 pounds a person,” Cohasset head coach Pete Afanasiw said. “That’s a lot of beef. I wish we had executed a little better, but they did a good job executing their game plan.
Jones opened the scoring with a 24-yard touchdown getaway, followed by a two-run punch in the run, before Baker scored his first touchdown to cut the lead to 8-6.
But Jones scored in the practice that followed, rushing from 26 yards to put the Bernardians ahead 16-8 after Mancini ran into the conversion as the horn sounded to end the first quarter.
Mancini added a 4-yard touchdown run in the second, scoring the two-run run for a 24-6 lead.
Baker’s 31-yard touchdown late in the half cut the lead to 24-12, but the Bernardians closed the half as Jones again found the end zone as time expired allowed, this time at 13 yards. Mancini again added the conversion run for a 32-12 lead at the break.