By Justin A. Rice
WALTHAM — On Tuesday about 30 members of the Brighton High football team traveled to Franklin and beat Tri-County 8-6 to earn a berth to Saturday’s MIAA Division 4A Super Bowl against Northeast at Bentley University.
On Thursday, report cards were dispatched.
“We came with only 15 players today, we lost a lot of players due to ineligibility,” Brighton senior Kevin DePina said after the 22-12 loss. “We had a short team and we still played hard. They predicted we were going to lose 42-18 and it was a close game. We lost by 10. We played our hearts out, we did what we could do. We lost a couple of fumbles, a couple mishaps on our part. But they played a good game, they played a good game and they beat us, that’s what it is.
“Players were ineligible so we had to mix up players, we had to mix up players on defense, mix up players on offense. It was difficult but we still scored 12 points. We did what we could.
“We only had 15 [today], we came 50 strong in August.”
Brighton coach James Phillips didn’t make any excuses for his 5-7 team that made the playoffs despite being below .500 thanks to O’Bryant’s victory against Latin Academy on Thanksgiving.
“We played well, we were a little short handed but we can’t complain, our guys did the best they could,” Phillips said before East Boston played Whittier in the Division 4 Super Bowl. “We’re going to shake it off, suck it up and go up in the stands and watch East Boston. I feel great about our season when we end up playing for a state championship. I feel great, I hope these young men do too.”
BPS athletes are held to a higher eligibility threshold than the MIAA requires, meaning that a player could hypothetically be eligible to play in the MIAA-sanctioned post season but not in the City League. Some BPS coaches argue that the threshold should be the same as the MIAA’s so more students can play and be kept off the streets. Others maintain that student athletes should be held to higher standards.
“Gotta get the grades first, we preached that and they didn’t listen and we suffered,” Phillips said. “That’s alright they’re teenagers they’ll have another day. They’ll grow up. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Bengals opened the game with a strong drive, marching down to the 10 before turning it over on downs. Northeast responded with its own long drive and scored with 1:08 left in the opening quarter on Mike Cain’s 21-yard run. The 2-point conversion failed and the Golden Knights led 6-0.
On the ensuing kickoff Northeast recovered an onside kick and with 6:49 left in the half scored on a Bobby Novella 3-yard run. Cain converted the 2-point conversion run to go up 14-0.
With 2:16 left in the half Brighton finally got on the board. Sophomore quarterback Jonathan Rosa rolled right before tossing the ball11-yards to sophomore Dwight Kennedy. Kennedy, who was already in the end zone came back for the ball to make the diving TD catch. But the 2-point conversion rush failed and the Bengals trailed 14-6 at half.
“We didn’t get the first down, they moved the football,” Phillips said of the opening drive. “We waited too late to come alive. They’re a good team.”
In the second half the Bengals lost a couple fumbles, including one that ended a promising drive at the end of the third quarter. At the start of the final quarter Northeast scored again to go up 22-6.
But Rosa kept things going on a 26-yard pass play to Kennedy. Rose scrambled left before reversing field. He found an open Kennedy who brought the ball down to the 21-yard-line.
A few plays later Rosa scored on a 8-yard keeper. He failed to convert the keeper, however, on the 2-point conversion.
The Bengals got the ball back but fumbled it away one final time with 3:04 left in the game.
Northeast’s (8-5) combined for 211 yards on the ground while Rosa, DePina and Calvin Clairborne had 142 rushing yards.
“I can and I can’t,” Rosa, who had 71 yards passing, said when asked if he can live with his team’s performance, “because everybody came to play and we didn’t give up. But I can’t because we didn’t come out with a win. I don’t have much to say. We’ll try to do it next year.
“I walk away with a lot, this experience was incredible. I learned how to keep my team composed and calm. I learned a lot from my team. It was a brotherhood. We kept together as a unit. We lost as a team.”
Rosa said he wants to talk to his coach about instituting a stricter study hall next season.
“We’re gonna make sure everyone has their grades, grades are the most important thing,” Rosa said. “Football is a privilege not an obligation.”