Three Keys to BVT’s Super Bowl Victory over St. Mary’sDec 31, 2018 06:00AM ● By Kenneth Hamwey
Blackstone Valley Tech Beavers celebrate their 2018 Division 7 Super Bowl Championship win at Gillette Stadium.
written by KENHAMWEY, Bulletin Sports Editor (Reprinted with permission from Local Town Pages)
A tenacious defense, heartfelt emotion and some unfinished business all played key roles in Blackstone Valley Tech’s 18-0 triumph over St. Mary’s of Lynn in the Division 7 Super Bowl.
The Beavers, who secured the first state championship for the school last month at Gillette Stadium, have now won three Super Bowls in the 20-year history of the program. The shutout of the Spartans will likely be the most memorable because of the way BVT’s defense rose to the occasion, the way the squad bonded after losing assistant coach Derek Yancik to pancreatic cancer last May, and the businesslike way that coach Jim Archibald’s players approached the game after losing a bowl matchup to Mashpee in 2017.
Defense was the Beavers’ calling card throughout the 2018 campaign. Their 11-1 overall record was compiled largely because of two numbers —75 points surrendered on defense for an average yield of only 6.8 points per contest.
Consider these statistics against St. Mary’s—the four-time defending North Sectional champion was limited to only 75 total yards of offense; BVT’s defense forced a three-and-out on the Spartans’ first three possessions; St. Mary’s failed to get a first down until midway through the second quarter; the Spartans had only six first downs for the game; St. Mary’s went 0-for-9 on third-down conversions; and Spartans’ star halfback Jalen Echevarria managed only seven yards on 10 carries against BVT.
“Stopping St. Mary’s on their first possession set the tone,” Archibald said. “We let them know that playing us wasn’t going to be easy and that we were at Gillette to compete intensely. I didn’t anticipate holding them to 75 total yards, but our kids controlled the line of scrimmage and our tackling was exceptional.”
Archibald listed six defensive stalwarts for their contributions—Jordyn Amero (end), Ethan Blake (tackle), Nick Reed (end), Alex Tashjian (linebacker), JD Antaya (cornerback) and Jared Loiselle (linebacker).
“We played with energy and we were physical,” Archibald noted. “Jordyn’s execution was solid, Ethan beat their center, Nick had a key sack on their first possession and Alex diagnosed the plays quickly and did his normal stuff. JD had an interception and Jared is so reliable, turning in a big play that stopped them at our goal line.”
BVT no doubt adheres to the adage that defense wins championships, but its offense isn’t chopped liver. Antaya scored on a short run in the first quarter and quarterback Scott Mackay added a TD on a bootleg keeper in the second stanza, then ran for the final TD in the third quarter. “JD and Aidan Fitzgerald caught passes out of the backfield and Scott was calm and collected,” Archibald said.
“Scott never gets rattled. I work with the quarterbacks and he responded well all year to my loud and disciplined style. We both enjoy winning and he’s truly a great competitor.”
Archibald, whose eight-year record at BVT is 81-16, always looks for motivational ideas to impart to his players and he found the ideal tool in two movies.
Archibald watched the Rocky movies after the Mashpee setback, and the more he viewed “Rocky I and II” the more he realized how much BVT’s situation aligned with the movies’ theme. He told his players to watch them and they did. The underdogs were about to become the favorites and the “Yo, Adrian, I did it!” moment became “Yo, Derek, we did it!”
Before the season got underway, about 85 t-shirts were ordered that said “Valley Tech Football” on the front and “Rocky II” on the back. “That was a team thing,” Archibald said. “You had to be in our circle to know the significance.”
Yancik’s death at 49 was a huge motivating factor, but in his pre-game pep talk Archibald was careful about invoking his name. “I didn’t want to use my friend’s death to win a football game,” Archibald emphasized. “It’s a fine line to walk. I didn’t want to cheapen his memory; however, I did remind the kids that we were playing for a special friend.”
Yancik taught heating and air conditioning at the tech school, and he coached the offensive and defensive lines. “Derek was a tremendous guy,” Archibald said. “He was ill last year, but he showed up for the Mashpee game. We wanted to win it for him then, but we’re glad we did this time. The kids openly talked about him and they wanted to win the Super Bowl in memory of him.”
Reflecting on Yancik, Archibald said, “We miss him every day. He just meant so much to our program and so much to our kids. We set out to dedicate this season to him and it couldn’t have ended on a better note.”
Another aspect that became a big plus for BVT was a chance at redemption. The 22-16 loss to Mashpee left a bitter taste. For a year, the Beavers’ desire was to take care of business the second time around. And they did, rallying for 11 straight victories after losing their opener to Millbury, 13-7, in overtime. Playoff wins over Assabet, Leicester and Wahconah were emphatic statements that they were on a mission.
“Our kids treated the game against St. Mary’s like a business trip,” Archibald said. “They were self-motivated, focused and locked in. That was their mentality. They wanted to finish the job and they felt that anything less would be a disappointment.”
Waiting in the tunnel to run onto the turf at Gillette gave Archibald a positive feeling that Dec. 1, 2018, was going to be the Beavers’ day.
“We were waiting for the first bowl game to end,” he recalled. “The kids didn’t care about the venue or the delay. During that 25-minute wait, they had a stoic, businesslike look on their faces. They were ready.”
In more ways than one.