By Mike Zhe email@example.com Nov 23, 2019
One year after an injury limited him to one play in the Class B championship game, Marshwood senior Justin Bryant made up for lost time as the Hawks beat Brunswick, 48-28, at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Saturday’s final
PORTLAND, Maine — Justin Bryant wasn’t missing a moment of this one.
One year after an injury limited him to one play in the Class B championship game, the Marshwood High School senior fullback/linebacker made up for lost time as the Hawks won their third straight state title on Saturday night, beating Brunswick, 48-28, at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Bryant rushed for four touchdowns as the Hawks (11-1) built a 28-14 halftime lead. He finished with 219 yards on 18 carries and five scores.
“He’s the best football player I’ve ever played with,” said senior quarterback/defensive end Connor Caverly. “The amount of work he’s put in is just outstanding. He’s in the weight room more than anybody else.”
It’s the fifth state title for Marshwood in the last six years, with four of them getting capped by wins over Brunswick (11-1) on this field.
But of these last three titles, this was the only state game Bryant’s had an impact in, due to untimely injuries. That made his performance all the sweeter.
“It’s so satisfying to finally play this game,” said Bryant. “My teammates last year, my substitutes, did a great job playing hard, but to finally get in the game and play and do well and win, it’s satisfying.”
In a season of dominance, this was no rout like last year’s 49-0 state game.
Down by two touchdowns at halftime, the Dragons executed an onside kick and recovered it. Traded punts and a good return by Chandler Coombs gave them possession inside the red zone, and they cashed in to cut the lead to 28-20 midway through the third quarter.
“We got back in the game. That’s what we wanted to do,” said Brunswick coach Dan Cooper. “Then they made plays to separate again.”
When the Hawks absolutely needed an answer, they produced one.
A 39-yard pass from Caverly to Cullen Casey (five catches for 108 yards) down the sideline set up a Caverly QB sneak for a 35-20 lead.
“It was important that we came back and scored right away, not give them the momentum,” said Marshwood coach Alex Rotsko.
“We knew the way their coverage was that Cullen was going to be open,” said Caverly (8-for-13 passing for 127 yards, and passing and rushing TDs). “It’s all Coach Rotsko and his game plan.”
Then, after John Valentine intercepted a pass that Cam Cornett had defended and deflected, the Hawks drove in from midfield, taking a 42-20 lead in the final minute of the third quarter when Caverly hit Valentine from 3 yards out.
Cornett, a quick sophomore who should see his role increase next year, finished with 78 yards on nine carries.
The matchup was an anticipated one, after both teams gave a top team from Class A a game during the regular season before rolling through their regional playoffs. Marshwood lost 28-27 at Thornton Academy, while Brunswick beat eventual champion Bonny Eagle, 27-14.
After stopping the Dragons’ first possession in the shadow of their red zone on downs, Marshwood struck quickly. A 35-yard sideline pass from Caverly to Casey was followed by Bryant bursting through a hole on the right and running 27 yards for a touchdown and 7-0 lead.
Brunswick answered back with a 10-play, 57-yard drive, one moved along by two penalties on the Hawks that provided first downs. It was 7-6 after one quarter.
Bryant scored his second touchdown of the day on his team’s second possession, capping an 11-play, 60-yard march with an 11-yard burst to the corner to make it 13-6, the extra point missing.
“I wouldn’t say we struggled on defense, but we didn’t shut them down,” said Bryant.
His third score came after his defense forced the game’s first punt and took over at its own 40. On the fifth play of the drive, he looked to have been bottled up by the second level of defense, but he broke a tackle, raced to the sideline and scored to up the lead to 20-6.
The Dragons got to within 20-14 when Coombs ran 60 yards for a score on a fake punt, but Bryant accelerated and then capped another drive with less than two minutes left, scoring his fourth touchdown from 11 yards out.
“That’s a very talented football team over there,” said Cooper. “They were big, fast and physical. We thought we’d be able to have some success defensively … they were better than us.”
Owen Richardson, who also missed last year’s state game with an injury, rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries for Brunswick.
But Bryant left with the glory.
“He’s been waiting three years to do this,” said Rotsko. “It was great for him to have a day and it seemed like our guys up front did a really good job.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out, playing with these guys,” said Bryant. “It’s really exciting. I can’t even believe it, really.”