Byline: Chad Garner
WORCESTER - Shrewsbury High had been in several pressure-packed situations this season. But none were bigger than the one the Colonials faced during yesterday's Division 1A Super Bowl.
Trailing, 17-8, in the fourth quarter, Shrewsbury didn't push the panic button. Instead, it scored two touchdowns in a span of 2-1/2 minutes - sparked by the game-changing recovery of a short kickoff - en route to a heart-stopping, 21-17 victory over Westfield High at Worcester State College.
"We knew that if this game was going to come down to the end, we'd pull through because our team usually comes through in the second half," Colonials linebacker Shawn Loiseau said. "We're a second-half team, and we've been like that this whole year."
It appeared Westfield was going to ruin Shrewsbury's perfect season - the first 13-0 mark in Central Mass. history - when the Bombers capitalized on an interception by Robert Larose and turned it into a 17-8 lead after bruising fullback Ryan Veillette (21 carries, 107 yards, two TDs) rumbled 31 yards for a touchdown.
But the Colonials hung tough and put together their best drive of the game - a 15-play march that senior running back Alex Alvarez (14 carries, 51 yards, TD) capped with a 3-yard run. Paul Tizzano's PAT cut the deficit to 17-15 with 3:36 left.
The key play came on fourth down at the 29, where quarterback Jawad Yatim connected with receiver Keith Kittleson for 15 yards and a first down at the 14.
"We've got such a tight bond. We knew that we could count on each other to make plays, like we have all season," said Yatim, who was 7 of 17 for 172 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. "When I hit Keith on fourth down - he's been my best friend since second grade - I knew I could count on him. He got open and made the play. That proves how chemistry can come a long way in the game."
On the ensuing kickoff, Shrewsbury elected to pooch kick down the near sideline. Tizzano's kick bounced high off the turf and into the arms of teammate Anthony Wright at the Westfield 34.
"They left a bunch of gaps open on the side, so l just made the decision to just try and pooch it over there," Tizzano said. "Luckily, the turf helped it to bounce up, so we were able to hop on it and get the ball and go down and win. I knew right there, we weren't going to lose - it was in our hands, we had the game."
"Anthony Wright made a great play - that was the key to the game," Shrewsbury coach Terry Walles said.