CANTON — The record wasn’t quite as impressive as it was last year because, quite frankly, things didn’t come as easily for the Blue Hills High football team this fall.
The Warriors tasted defeat seven times and only posted back-to-back wins once. They also didn’t get to win another small-school state vocational crown. But, as usual with this program, they kept working hard and eventually got rewarded.
Junior Caiden Montas ran 14 times for 124 yards and three touchdowns, and senior Jake Reissfelder pitched in with a big night himself (16 carries for 133 yards) as Blue Hills pulled away in the second half to beat Bristol-Plymouth, 34-18, it’s Thanksgiving Eve.
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The Warriors, who ended up 5-7 after going 11-2 in 2021, could celebrate two Achievements on this night — they got to keep the holiday Trophy for another year and they were crowned Champions of the Mayflower Athletic Conference Large Vocational Division. Blue Hills finished 4-0 in league play; BP (6-4 overall) wound up 3-1.
“Really special,” Blue Hills second-year Coach Ed Madden said. “It was a good night.”
“It feels amazing,” agreed Reissfelder, who lives in Dedham. “Being a senior, going out like this, there’s no better way. Unfortunately, we couldn’t be in the (voke) Bowl again, but we’ve battled hard all year. We made it happen Tonight and that’s all I’m Thanks for.”
Montas, who went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season on a fourth-quarter carry of 29 yards, said he had the 12-man senior class in mind as he ripped off scoring runs of 10, 7 and 8 yards.
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“We knew BP was a really good team,” said Montas, who lives in Holbrook. “We lost to South Shore Tech (18-14 last week in the Voke semifinals) and BP beat those guys 36-6 (in September), so I felt a little nervous. But hearing from my Seniors about how much (this) meant to them … I knew I had to step up and do something as a junior.”
Bristol-Plymouth was shorthanded after star running back Ryan Barnes Tore the ACL in his left knee during a first-round loss to Southeastern Regional in the large-school Voke Playoffs 12 days ago. Barnes was the Divisional MVP, and his absence had a profound effect on the Craftsmen.
Junior Jose Ruiz picked up some of the slack by rushing 15 times for 100 yards and a TD, but BP rushed for just 151 yards total and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Blue Hills rushed for 370 yards and averaged 9.3 yards per pop.
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“He’s a difference-maker,” Coach John Parris said of Barnes. “He’s a home-run hitter. On four or five of the runs tonight, he’s gone. That’s the difference between having that (threat) and not having that.”
With Barnes sidelined, BP went to the air often, and junior quarterback Ryan Donovan was 8 of 16 passing for 101 yards. He threw a 9-yard TD pass to Tucker Bumila to pull the Craftsmen within 8-6 in the first quarter, but was also intercepted twice. Donovan was hurt on BP’s final drive and gave way to sophomore Cameron Cruz, who completed one of his four attempts for 12 yards.
Parris named Ryan Donovan the BP Offensive Player of the Game, saying, “Medal of honor, man. He played through some severe injuries tonight and he gave us everything he could.”
Senior linebacker Billy Donovan Jr. was BP’s Defensive Player of the Game and also was the team’s leading receiver with four catches for 59 yards. (Reissfelder, on offense, and Nakado Jinius, on defense, were Blue Hills’ player-of-the-game picks.)
After heavy graduation losses, Parris proclaimed himself pleased with his team’s showing this season. BP dropped its opener to Old Colony, then won six in a row before ending on a three-game slide.
“We had a great year,” Parris said. “After losing 27 seniors, like we just told the kids, did we expect 6-4? No. To fight for a Championship and to go into the vocational playoffs, that’s quite a statement for this program.”
Blue Hills looked dominant on its opening possession, marching 79 yards in 11 plays with Montas capping it off with a 10-yard scoring run. Sophomore Marcus Griffin ran in the 2-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Blue Hills QB Brayden Mahoney was 2 of 3 passing for 11 yards on the drive. They attempted only three more passes the rest of the night as the Warriors went almost exclusively to their patented ground game after that. “We tried to get a little fancy in the beginning so we could loosen them up,” Madden said of BP’s defense. “It was tough. I never really felt that good until the last two minutes because these (BP) guys are just so good.”
Griffin’s 49-yard TD run on the first play of the second quarter pushed the hosts’ lead to 14-6. BP took advantage of a Blue Hills fumble and cashed in on Brayden Alves’ 1-yard TD run with 2:34 left in the half. The 2-point pass fell incomplete, though, allowing Blue Hills to take a 14-12 lead into halftime.
The third quarter proved decisive as Blue Hills struck for a pair of TDs in the first seven minutes to pull ahead 26-12.
Montas ran in from 7 yards out to cap the opening drive of the quarter. The 2-point run was stuffed, leaving the Warriors up 20-12. On BP’s subsequent drive, the Craftsmen converted one fourth down (via penalty) and were bidding for another drive-extension when Blue Hills junior Jadimilson Cardoso stepped in front of a fourth-and-13 throw in the right flat and returned it 30-plus yards to the BP 24.
“Huge play,” Madden said. “It was his first game as a defensive back. Very smart football player, has a high football IQ. Quick learner. We knew we could put him there and he would execute. Thankfully, he did.”
On the very next play, Reissfelder ran 24 yards for a TD that made it 26-12.
“I made it through the line and saw my wall of blockers,” he said. “I found the hole and took off.”
“On a big play like that, we want him carrying the ball,” Madden said of Reissfelder, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards as both a junior and a senior. “He’s the guy you have to get the ball to, and you have to tell everyone that, hey, we’re giving him the ball and help him out. I’m glad we did that. Jake, you can trust him. He’s tough, reliable, dependable. He has Integrity — he says what he means and he means what he says. He was a privilege to coach. I’m going to miss him.”
Ruiz got BP within 26-18 with a 1-yard TD run late in the third quarter, but Montas answered that with an 8-yard scoring run with 8:46 left that effectively sealed the deal.
“I feel like we could have beaten South Shore (last week), but we didn’t have our best game,” Montas said. “At the end of the day they stepped up (and beat us). But I knew this week we were going to keep stomping until we won this game.”
In the end, Blue Hills got its celebration. It wasn’t quite as wild as the one after last year’s 52-51 win over Nashoba Valley Tech in the Voke bowl. But there was a trophy. And plenty of smiles.
“Best to end (my career) on a high (note),” Reissfelder said. “I couldn’t imagine doing this any other way.”