Heartbreaking Finish for St. Bernard’s
FITCHBURG -- A flat start and a heavy dose of senior back Brett Lebeau spelled trouble for the St. Bernard’s football team.
The third-seeded Indians raced out to a 16-point lead in the first half and Lebeau was a beast to bring down all night with 106 yards and four touchdowns, as No. 2 St. Bernard’s fell, 36-20, in a Central Mass. Division 8 semifinal at the Bernardian Bowl.
“We were flat,” admitted St. Bernard’s coach Tom Bingham. “They came out flying and really popped us in the first quarter and we really did not respond well until we settled in. We did not match the intensity and physical play in the first quarter. That was the difference in the game.
“I’m proud of our kids. Great effort. I’m really proud of our four seniors. At the end of the day, we didn’t match the intensity early and that got the best of us.”
Bartlett (6-3) faces No. 1 Nashoba Tech in the championship game next week.
St. Bernard’s is 5-4 and will play a non-playoff opponent next Friday.
Lebeau was the difference in this game. He scored three first-half touchdowns and added another with a 19-yard gallop in the fourth quarter to give his team a 28-20 lead with 2:46 left.
“He’s started for us since the eighth grade,” Bartlett coach Dane Laboissonniere said. “In his five years with us, he’s been in the playoffs four times, he’s now been to a Central Mass. championship game twice and he’s won the league a couple times. He’s been around the block and he plays hard.”
St. Bernard’s sophomore back Walter Morales Jr. also had a great playoff game with 17 carries for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“He’s probably the best back we’ve faced,” said Laboissonniere.
St. Bernard’s came out of the locker room at halftime on a mission. Morales got things going with a 66-yard kickoff return. After three runs by Nick Calvillo, Morales slithered in from 4 yards out for the score. Dazeen Figueroa’s 2-point run pulled the Bernardians to within two points, 22-20.
The Bernardians drove 12 plays, fueled by Figueroa’s nice touch pass to Max Bigelow, but the drive stalled when Lebeau dragged down Morales short of the first down marker at the 18.
Lebeau’s fourth score put St. Bernard’s down 28-20. St. Bernard’s turned the ball over on downs again, as Figueroa’s pass was incomplete.
The St. B’s defense stood tall, forcing a punt. The offense got the ball back with 41 seconds left, but Figueroa was picked off by William Harding, who took it 38 yards to the house to end the Bernardians’ playoff run.
Bartlett came out on the opening drive of the game and marched down the field in four plays for the game’s first score.
Romeo Soto’s behind-the-back fake and run for 45 yards and Jesse Torres’ 10-yard scamper set up bulldozer Lebeau’s 2-yard touchdown run.
St. Bernard’s quarterback Figueroa hit Ben Shaw for 35 yards, but the drive eventually stalled and the hosts turned the ball over on downs at the Bartlett 5.
The Indians took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The fierce running game of the Indians pounded away at the Bernardian defensive front.
The attack of Torres, Soto and Lebeau kept picking up first downs, and the hard-running of Lebeau paid off with a 1-yard TD run. He was stopped at the line of scrimmage, but his second effort and leap over the goal-line gave the Indians a two-score advantage with 8:20 left in the half.
“For being so big, he’s really a patient back,” Bingham said. “Boy, when he decides to go, he goes.”
St. Bernard’s, which struggled to solve Bartlett’s tough defensive front early, made adjustments and started to gain traction in the running game.
Morales -- the speedy sophomore -- carried four times on St. Bernard’s first scoring drive of the game -- and eventually rushed around the right end on fourth-and-goal for a 4-yard touchdown run. Morales added the 2-point conversion, cutting the deficit to 14-6. Morales had runs of 17, 4, 31 and 4 on the nine-play drive.
Bartlett, however, kept up the pressure, as Lebeau pounded in for 13-yards out for his third score of the evening. He added the conversion run and Bartlett was up big, 22-6.
St. Bernard’s got the ball back at its own 47 with 33 seconds left in the half, and somehow scored to go into the locker room down 22-12.
After Figueroa’s 5-yard run on first down, Morales got his number called and turned on the jets after getting around the right side for a stunning 48-yard TD run with only 12 seconds left on the clock.
Follow Chad Garner on Twitter @CGARNER23.