Shawsheen Tech football is going Bowl-ing

In a playoff game for the ages, the Shawsheen Tech football team overcame five turnovers, four of them in the second half, to outlast Dover Sherborn in the Div. 5 state semifinals, 21-14, on Saturday afternoon at Weston High School. 

“Unbelievable,” said Shawsheen coach Al Costabile. “What a roller-coaster ride that was. Can you believe we’re going to Gillette?” 

The win advances the Rams to the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, the school’s first appearance in the state title game since its Div. 4 championship in 2010.  

“It was a hard-fought game all the way through,” said Ram senior Mavrick Bourdeau of Billerica, who took several snaps at quarterback throughout the game as well as lining up at receiver. “We couldn’t have asked for a better game.” 

Shawsheen’s chances of victory looked bleak in the fourth quarter. 

Moments after the Raiders turned an interception into a 31-yard touchdown drive that tied the game at 14, the Rams fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and D-S sophomore Harry Dummer recovered the loose ball at the Shawsheen 14-yard line. 

On the next play from scrimmage, Dover Sherborn fumbled and Shawsheen junior Richard Elliott III recovered with 5:18 to go. 

That’s when Shawsheen sophomore quarterback Sid Tildsley of Billerica and Bourdeau took over. 

The pair engineered an 85-yard, 10-play drive that lasted just over three minutes and ended with a memorable fourth-and-10 play that saw Tildsley hit junior Ryan Copson in mid-stride and Copson did the rest, running into the end zone for a go-ahead 34-yard touchdown reception. 

Sophomore Jack Finn of Billerica kicked the extra point and Shawsheen led by seven, 21-14, with 2:04 left. 

On the way to the end zone, Bourdeau made three first-down catches, the first for 17 yards on a third-and-10 play from the 15-yard line, the second for 11 yards from the 32 and the third for 23 yards to the Raider 34-yard line. 

After the next three plays produced zero yards, Tildsley found Copson. 

“We have a lot of playmakers on this team,” said junior Austin Malandain of Billerica. “That’s what it comes down to. I think they only allowed six points in the playoffs and we scored 21. I think we did a pretty good job on offense.” 

The Raiders allowed 21 points in their two playoff victories, a 28-14 win against Watertown and a 20-7 victory over Hudson, but nobody scored more than 14 points all year long against Dover Sherborn, who fell to 10-1 with the loss. 

“Their defensive speed was very impressive,” Costabile said. “We tried to get outside a couple of times and it was really difficult.” 

Malandain and Shawsheen’s defense had one more stop to make after Raider junior Emilio Cabey returned the kickoff to the 29-yard line. 

On third-and-eight, D-S junior quarterback Garrett Webb found junior Brian Olson for eight yards and a first down by inches. 

A short completion to Olson set up another third down pass to Cabey that Tildsley broke up, setting up Dover Sherborn’s final play, an incomplete pass on fourth down with just 1:12 left. 

“Our defensive front really came through,” Costabile said. “They make it really difficult to run and they generate a lot of pressure on the quarterback in passing situations.” 

The Rams then chalked up one final first down on a pair of runs by Tildsley to put the victory in the books. 

Defense dominated the first half as both teams showed off tremendous speed that kept the other team’s offense quiet. 

The first Raider drive totaled just two yards and ended with a punt into a strong wind that traveled only 16 yards to give Shawsheen terrific field position. 

A first-down toss to Bourdeau moved the Rams to the 22-yard line, but on third-and-three, Tildsley was intercepted by Dummer. 

Shawsheen’s defense allowed just four yards on the next Raider drive and Tildsley returned the next punt 23 yards to midfield. 

Defense continued to be the story as both teams traded punts, but Dover’s once again was stuck in the wind and traveled only 18 yards and was downed at the 43-yard line. 

Shawsheen nearly took advantage of its excellent field position. 

A first-down pass to Bourdeau for 11 yards was followed by a costly third-down penalty against Dover Sherborn that moved the ball to the 12-yard line. 

Bourdeau took the snap at quarterback on the next play and ran to the 2-yard line, but a holding penalty against the Rams pushed the ball back to the 21 and Shawsheen ultimately turned the ball over on downs. 

Shawsheen then came up with a takeaway that helped break the scoreless deadlock. 

On a first-down play, junior Damian Ortiz of Tewksbury and freshman James Tildsley of Billerica stopped Raider senior tailback Michael Polk for a 2-yard loss. On the next play, James Tildsley sacked Webb and forced a fumble that Ram junior Cullen Walsh of Wilmington recovered at the 24-yard line of the Raiders. 

Shawsheen would score five plays later when Sid Tildsley scored on a 3-yard run and Finn kicked the extra point to make it 7-0 with 5:45 left in the second quarter. 

Bourdeau had the key play of the drive, a 17-yard reception on fourth-and-six from the Dover Sherborn 20. 

The Raiders clearly decided to feature Polk after falling behind and it paid off. 

On a drive that started at the D-S 36-yard line, Polk carried three times for 31 yards to move the ball to the Ram 31-yard line. That’s where the drive stopped and on fourth-and-10, Webb was intercepted by Sid Tildsley, who returned the pick 71 yards for a touchdown. Finn’s kick pushed the lead to 14-0 with 2:45 remaining in the half. 

Cullen had a key defensive play just before the interception, batting down a Webb pass on second down. 

Cullen blocked another pass late in the half, helping the Rams take a 14-0 edge into intermission. 

The crazy second half started with punts by each team. 

Shawsheen’s second drive of the third quarter started with a 29-yard run by Bourdeau. On the next snap, the Rams fumbled and Raider senior Mekhi Robinson recovered at the Shawsheen 29-yard line. 

Polk then asserted himself for Dover Sherborn, rushing three times for 23 yards to the 5-yard line. 

On third-and-goal, Cullen and junior Thomas Cormier of Billerica forced an incomplete pass with an effective pass rush, but Polk scored on fourth down with a 5-yard run with 4:57 remaining in the third quarter. The extra point by the Raiders missed. 

Each team punted its next possession, but the kick by Dover Sherborn was mishandled by the Rams and the Raiders took over at Shawsheen 25-yard line. 

A 16-yard pass from Webb to Cabey moved the ball to the 12, but the next pass was tipped and intercepted by Ram junior Anthony Canadas at the goal line and returned to the 17-yard line. 

After a 19-yard run by Ram junior Caleb Caceres, a ferocious pass rush by Olson of the Raiders forced a quick pass that was intercepted by Robinson. 

The Raiders then leaned on their workhorse, Polk, to tie the score. 

The senior carried six of the next seven plays for 16 yards to move the ball inside the 10. 

After a penalty against D-S, Webb hit Olson with a 9-yard pass and Polk ran for two yards to the 2-yard line to set up a fourth-and-goal. 

On the next play, Webb fumbled the snap, Polk picked up the loose ball before pitching the ball to Cabey, who scored on a 2-yard run. Webb then found Cabey with the 2-point conversion pass to tie the score at 14 with 5:34 left. 

Two snaps and two fumbles later, Shawsheen would score the winning points and set up its opportunity to play at Gillette Stadium against second-seeded North Reading, who has piled up 122 points in its three playoff victories. 

“We work so hard, that’s the reason we’re in this position,” Bourdeau said. “This is a family, that’s really what it is. Everyone doubts us because we’re a tech school, that’s how it is and it will always be like that, but here we are, we’re going to Gillette.” 

“Don’t give up,” added Malandain. “We’ve played a lot of good teams all season and we’ve been underdogs since Day 1. We’ve proven people wrong all season. We’re ready to go (to the Super Bowl).”