Down 20-6 early in the second quarter against a team that it lost to by a 42-14 score a year ago, the Shawsheen Tech football team embarked on a memorable comeback that had veteran coach Al Costabile gushing after the game.
“I am so proud of these guys,” Costabile said after Shawsheen’s 30-26 slugfest victory over the visiting Buccaneers on Saturday afternoon. “We took a big blow at the beginning of the game and a lot of teams would have folded, but we took everything they had and these kids just fought back.”
The Rams actually scored 17 unanswered points to take a 23-20 lead after a 30-yard field goal by junior Jared Bishop of Wilmington with 4:19 to go in the third quarter.
Bedford answered with a touchdown on a 69-yard, 10-play drive that ended with a terrific 19-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Eric Miles to junior wideout Xavier Ruiz on the first play of the fourth quarter. Ruiz missed the extra point, but Bedford had its lead back, 26-23.
Miles had two big completions during the drive, a 19-yard toss to senior Stuart Livington and a 27-yard connection with senior Richard Fedele on a fourth-and-10 play from the Ram 37-yard line.
Shawsheen didn’t score on its next possession, but a deep drive that led to a missed field goal ended up being a key to the eventual game-winning score.
Three plays after the Rams missed a game-tying kick, Shawsheen junior Ryan Copson of Wilmington intercepted Miles at the 30-yard line.
Four plays later, Ram sophomore quarterback Sidney Tildsley found senior Mavrick Bourdeau in the corner of the end zone from 10 yards out. Bishop’s extra point made it 30-26 with 3:24 left on the clock.
“That was a perfect ball by Sid,” Bourdeau said of Tildsley, an undefeated state champion wrestler last winter for the Rams.
“We were so resilient,” said Costabile. “I’m so proud of the players and I’m so proud of my coaches. I’m a lucky guy.”
Bedford started its final drive at its own 26-yard line.
An 18-yard run by Miles was followed by a third-and-18 play that saw Miles find Livingston for a 10-yard completion, but Livingston quickly pitched to Fedele, who nearly took it to the end zone before being chased out of bounds by Tildsley at the 11-yard line. The play went for 39 yards for the Buccaneers.
Two penalties against Bedford for false starts were costly, setting up a first-and-20 from the 21-yard line.
Two runs by Miles moved the ball to the 12 before a third-down pass was intercepted by Copson, his second theft of the day.
“He is a turnover machine,” Costabile laughed. “He’s our shutdown corner and he has a knack for the ball. He really enjoys that and a lot of high school kids don’t want that.”
The first half featured several big plays by Bedford.
The Bucs took the lead just 48 seconds into the game when Miles broke free for a 30-yard touchdown run. Ruiz’s kick made it 7-0.
Shawsheen responded with a 58-yard drive that took 13 plays and ended with a 1-yard run by Tildsley with 3:59 left in the first quarter. The extra point missed, keep Bedford in front.
Tildlsey had four completions for 44 yards during the drive including a 12-yarder to junior Evan Galanis of Tewksbury and tosses of 12 and 13 yards to Copson.
Junior Jason Marrone of Wilmington added a first-down run on fourth-and-one at the Bedford 2-yard line.
The Bucs needed less than a minute to add to their lead as Miles hit Fedele with a 71-yard scoring pass for a 14-6 BHS lead.
Bedford used two more big plays to take a 14-point lead.
After Shawsheen drove to the Buccaneer 10-yard line, BHS senior Owen Brazee intercepted Tildsley at the goal line. On the next play from scrimmage, Miles scampered 91 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-6 with 8:34 left before intermission.
“You just have to keep your head up sometimes,” Bourdeau said of Bedford’s early lead. “It’s always hard to keep going and digging deep, but that’s all we kept saying.”
The Rams had an important answer before halftime, scoring with 5:44 left on a 10-yard pass to Copson on a fourth-and-eight play.
The key play of the drive was a 25-yard run by junior Caleb Caceres of Billerica, who dragged several tacklers before finally being stopped. Bishop’s extra point cut Bedford’s lead to seven.
Shawsheen tied the game on the first play of the third quarter as Bourdeau took a handoff from Tildsley before throwing to freshman Dyllon Pratt of Billerica for a 70-yard touchdown pass. Bishop’s extra point tied the game at 20 just 16 seconds into the second half.
After a Bedford punt, the Rams went 80 yards in 10 plays before the Bishop field goal.
An 11-yard pass to Bourdeau and a 28-yard connection to Pratt led to the go-ahead kick with 4:19 remaining in the quarter. Sophomore Brayton Carbone of Billerica did a tremendous job as the holder on the field goal.
The game was far from over as each team had one more scoring drive in a season-opening thriller.
“It feels great,” said Bourdeau, who studies HVAC at Shawsheen. “Last year they blew us out. All (preseason) camp we’ve been coming together as a team. It’s beautiful. We’re coming together.”
The Rams host Triton Regional on Friday night at 7 p.m.