Courageous KP Football Team Bows to Catholic Memorial Division 2 Super Bowl
Coach Brian Lee and quarterback Charlie Grant were key components in King Philip’s journey to the Super Bowl. Photo courtesy of Joe Gianni.
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
Coach Brian Lee didn’t call King Philip’s road to a Super Bowl championship a Herculean task but he did put the challenge in perspective on Thanksgiving Day when his Warriors faced arch-rival Franklin in their annual November classic.
Before bowing to Franklin in a back-and-forth battle for the Kelley-Rex Division title, the veteran coach said: “It’s hard enough playing one tough game (Milford in the Division 2 semifinals), then to come back and play for a league championship and then have to play one of the best teams (Catholic Memorial) in the state for the Super Bowl.”
In a span of 13 days, KP defeated Milford, 31-16, to qualify for the Super Bowl, lost to Franklin six days later, 27-20, in a clash that decided the division champion, then seven days later faced undefeated Catholic Memorial in the Super Bowl where the underdog Warriors lost, 42-18.
The Warriors, who stopped CM on its first two possessions, stayed with the Knights for a half (down 14-3) but couldn’t match their offensive firepower that was on full display at Gillette Stadium. A week before CM faced off against KP, the Knights unleased their high-powered offense to defeat Boston College High on Thanksgiving, 57-34, registering 37 points in the first quarter.
“CM is the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced,’’ Lee said. “And, they’re the best team I’ve ever coached against. They’ve got so many explosive players and they can score points in a matter of minutes. They’ve got speed, they can run and pass and their linemen are big and fast.’’
CM quarterback JC Petrongolo threw three touchdown passes and Kole Osinubi scored three times, including a pick-6, as the Knights piled up 446 yards on offense, forcing the Warriors into a game of catch-up.
“When you try to match them, that’s not our game,’’ Lee said. “And that’s when it got away from us. Mistakes occur or you force something that’s not there. When that happens, you get this kind of result.’’
The Knights, trailing 3-0 after KP’s Matt Kelley drilled a field goal early in the second quarter, bounced back before the half ended. A TD pass from Petrongolo to Osinubi covered 51 yards and on the final possession of the half, Petrongolo’s 15-yard toss to wideout Matt Rios enabled the Knights to take a 14-3 advantage.
A Datrell Jones three-yard run late in the third quarter capped off a 93-yard drive, giving CM a 21-3 cushion before the final stanza got underway.
KP built some momentum early in the final quarter, scoring on Rudy Gately’s four-yard run. Trailing 21-10, the Warriors were unable to contain CM. A double-pass play that featured Drew DeLucia connecting with Jaedn Skeete for 66 yards gave the Knights a 28-10 lead. The Warriors’ offense kept battling and scored when quarterback Charlie Grant reached the endzone on a five-yard run around the left side. Crawford Cantave followed with a two-point conversion on a Grant pass.
KP closed its gap to 28-18 but the Knights put the contest on ice when Osinubi scored twice — his first TD coming on a pass and the second on a pick-six. CM finished its season at 12-0 and the bowl triumph was their first since 1978 when they beat Chelmsford, 13-8.
“To play CM is a daunting task and to beat them takes perfection,’’ Lee said. “That means protecting and controlling the ball, minimizing their possessions, slowing them down and playing solid defense. There can’t be any missed assignments.’’
Unfortunately for KP, there were two key miscues that would have kept the game close in the early going. Before scoring on its field goal in the second quarter, Grant overthrew Tom Brewster who was open in the endzone. In the third quarter, trailing 14-3, a Grant pass was dropped that likely would have been a touchdown.
“I’d like to have that overthrown pass back,’’ Grant said. “It’s a play I should have made. It hurt to miss on that but we got a field goal. The dropped pass later was a missed opportunity but mistakes happen. We knew this game would be our hardest of the year but I’m proud of the way our team competed. We battled hard, never gave up and showed lots of heart and toughness.’’
Lee also liked what his players displayed.
“Going 9-3 with two losses to end the season might seem disappointing or even be viewed as a failure since we lost on Thanksgiving and also in the Super Bowl,’’ Lee said. “But, I don’t see it that way. The kids worked hard, won three playoff games and got back to Gillette Stadium. That alone makes it a great season. We’ve been to four Super Bowls in six years.’’
Lee also emphasized the courage his forces showed.
“People don’t understand hard work,’’ he said. “We had 11 seniors on our team. When they were freshmen, we started with 33 kids in that class but it dwindled down to 11. Two-thirds of their class left. Hard work comes with a price — commitment, mental and physical exhaustion, and tough practices. Then, they lend themselves to critiques and criticism. When we started our season, we knew we were not a Super Bowl team. But the kids took risks and that takes courage. Even after losing to CM, they’re better off. Because they’ve learned a lot about themselves and they were willing to embrace the opportunity.’’
The Division 2 bowl was definitely a David vs. Goliath matchup. KP was the underdog — a decided underdog. And, their coach was acutely aware that his forces were matched against a juggernaut — CM entered the contest averaging 45 points a game. As Lee said: “Playing CM is like playing against an all-star team.”
And, he wasn’t joking when he said: “If we won, then that would have been the greatest upset in Massachusetts Super Bowl history.’’
SIDELINE SLANTS: For CM coach John DiBiaso, the triumph was his 14th Super Bowl championship … Before taking the reins at CM four years ago, he coached at Everett for 26 years … The total yards statistic at halftime was a positive omen for CM — the Knights outgained KP, 238 to 105 … Lee’s been on the job for 17 years at KP and he’s got two Super Bowl titles (Reading and Lincoln-Sudbury) … KP advanced to the 2021 Super Bowl by defeating Chelmsford, Mansfield and Milford … CM earned its berth by defeating Woburn, Reading and Marshfield … KP’s defense, which yielded an average of 15 points a game, is the only team that shut out CM in the first quarter.