Typically, Super Bowl matchups in any division will find schools that are not in the same conference and neither program is too familiar with the other, hailing from different parts of the state.
But West Boylston and St. Bernard’s are Central Massachusetts acquaintances and know all about each other heading to Gillette Stadium this Friday for the Div. 7 title.
West Boylston (10-2) features a four-headed monster of a backfield in Connor Muldoon, Bobby Humphrey, Jamie McNamara and John Ruas as they all contribute to head coach Mike Ross’ double wing offense.
“(St. Bernard’s is) a lot like us, they do a lot of similar things. They run the ball, we run the ball — a lot of similarities. We have a couple of kids that we can get the ball and the O-line has been solid all year; not the biggest in size, but tough and make plays,” said Ross. “We’ve been playing year in and year out and St. Bernard’s has been a good rivalry for years. Normally when we play, it’s a big game for the season.”
The Bernardians are veterans of the Gillette Stadium spotlight with Super Bowl appearances in 2015, 2018 and 2019 with back-to-back wins in the final two showcases. But this all goes out the window as head coach Tom Bingham agrees the teams know each other well.
“We are not in the same leagues in Central Mass., but we see each other quite often with our alignment,” said Bingham. “Coach Ross is the best to do it, does it the right way, and their kids work hard. They don’t hurt themselves, high football IQ, simple and fundamentally sound,”
St. Bernard’s (11-1) staple is the Delaware Wing-T offense relying on deception. Senior running backs Damien Jones (27 touchdowns; 1,693 yards) and Antonio Mancini (16 TDs; 1,280 yards) lead the scoring with Keegan Rose and Jameson Williams also playing key roles in the four-back set.
But the credit this season for St. Bernard’s goes to the offensive line which has experience, size and has been the true foundation for Bingham’s squad.
Tackles Stefano Allen and Rocco LaMonica are bookends and junior guard Jordan Clifton has helped the offensive push, developing all season long as a group.
“This will be a war in the trenches. They have two backs that are spectacular and we have to slow them down,” said Ross.
Bingham believes the ground-and-pound formula used by both teams will make for a chess match on the field.
“With Coach Ross and his staff and his kids, that nervousness is out the window this year,” said Bingham. “We know what we are getting into and at the end of day it will be the team with the least mistakes and that tackles well which comes out on top.”
DIV. 7 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Friday, Dec. 2, 3 p.m. at Gillette
St. Bernard’s vs. West Boylston
ST. BERNARD’S BERNARDIANS (11-1)
Head coach: Tom Bingham
ST. BERNARD’S 30, Blackstone Valley 0
Stoneham 24, ST. BERNARD’S 6
ST. BERNARD’S 42, South Hadley 0
St. Bernard’s 44, LEICESTER 14
ST. BERNARD’S 40, Nipmuc 7
St. Bernard’s 50, SUTTON 16
St. Bernard’s 46, BLACKSTONE-MILLVILLE 6
ST. BERNARD’S 52, Northbridge 12
ST. BERNARD’S 42, Mashpee 12
ST. BERNARD’S 20, Uxbridge 14
St. Bernard’s 32, Cohasset 19
St. Bernard’s 48, ST. PAUL 20
HOME TEAM IN CAPS
WEST BOYLSTON LIONS (10-2)
Head coach: Mike Ross
West Boylston 37, NORTHBRIDGE 0
WEST BOYLSTON 43, Assabet Valley 18
WEST BOYLSTON 6, Blackstone Valley 0
West Boylston 42, CLINTON 7
West Boylston 28, TYNGSBORO 15
West Boylston 51, OXFORD 15
Lunenburg 25, WEST BOYLSTON 22
WEST BOYLSTON 41, Littleton 0
WEST BOYLSTON 42, Tech Boston 0
WEST BOYLSTON 36, Wahconah 6
West Boylston 33, Amesbury 20
MAYNARD 48, West Boylston 13
HOME TEAM IN CAPS
SUPER BOWL HISTORY
St. Bernard’s is heading to its fifth championship game, posting a 3-1 overall record. The Bernardians won back-to-back Div. 8 titles in 2018 and 2019. St. Bernard’s defeated West Bridgewater 30-8 in 2019 as Nico Mancini ran for 128 yards and three touchdowns, while Tyler Thibodeau added 104 rushing yards and a score.
West Boylston is 2-0 in title game appearances. The Lions defeated Grafton, 15-6, in 1988 and topped Leicester 14-6 in the Div. 5 final in 2012 as Mike Pace ran for 92 yards and a score, while Steven Gould added the other score.