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Back on top: Blue Hills football tops Tri-County for second voke crown in three years

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CANTON — A promising start it was not.

The Blue Hills Regional football team’s first-quarter performance in Wednesday night’s Small-School Vocational Bowl against Tri-County left a lot to be desired. The Warriors surrendered a 75-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff, committed a slew of pre-snap penalties on offense and lost a fumble on a punt return.

Blue Hills senior running back Caiden Montas didn’t lose faith, though.

“We have a saying here,” he noted. “Who do you become when things don’t go your way?”

On this night the Warriors became champions.

Three second-quarter rushing touchdowns got the ball rolling, and Blue Hills eventually cruised to a 44-7 win that delivered the program’s second voke crown in three years.

“This means the world to me,” said Montas, who rushed 12 times for 117 yards and a pair of 2-point conversions. “The whole team fought very hard for this, until our last moment. I’m so happy it ended this way. I love my brothers. I wouldn’t want it to end any other way.”

Blue Hills’ last title capped an 11-2 campaign in 2021. The Warriors won that crown in dramatic fashion, outlasting Nashoba Valley Tech, 52-51, in a game that featured a staggering 955 combined yards of offense. This one was much more routine, but no less satisfying.

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“I was on that (2021) team,” said senior running back Aidan Landers, who rushed 12 times for 115 yards and three TDs. “Those seniors had a smile on their face (that night), and I couldn’t wait to have a moment like that, too.”

Blue Hills coach Ed Madden might not have been smiling early on as he watched Tri-County’s Anthony Lum return the opening kickoff for a TD. But the 7-0 deficit lingered only three plays into the second quarter, when QB Brayden Mahoney scored on a 1-yard sneak and Montas darted in for the conversion and an 8-7 lead.

“It was a really tough start,” said Madden. “We put ourselves in a hole. Definitely an adverse situation. Many penalties. Kickoff-return for a touchdown. It is what it is. The kids battled back and stayed focused and they battled out of the hole.”

Third-seeded Blue Hills (9-4) again leaned on its pulverizing running game. The all-senior trio of Montas, Landers and Matthew Begin had combined for 361 yards and three scores in a 28-6 regular-season win over Tri-County, and the Warriors went to the same well again with Begin (26 carries for 151 yards, 2 TDs) leading the way. The trio’s numbers this time: 50 carries for 383 yards (7.7-yard average) and five TDs.

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The offensive line — left tackle James Bennett, left guard Tristan Camarra, center Kyle Trainor, right guard Patrick Dockham, right tackle Henrik Hafenrichter and tight ends Jadimilson Cardoso and Jimmy Donovan — was, as Montas put it, “amazing as usual.”

“Having linemen that like to block and having backs that like to run, they’re a machine,” Madden said. “Brayden Mahoney, he’s the operator. Two years at quarterback. He probably doesn’t get enough credit. He did an outstanding job. Obviously, the backs are tremendous, all of them. They’re all over 1,000 (yards this season). Maybe close to four (thousand yards among them). And the line, it’s a team unit. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

Fourth-seeded Tri-County (7-5) could take solace in the fact that it staged a dramatic turnaround from last year’s 1-9 record.

“Last year our record was pretty poor and we made a lot of mistakes,” Cougars coach Andy Gomes said. “This group of seniors decided they were going to work as hard as they could to try to eliminate that and they did. We limited mistakes and we got better. Our captains — Shawn Gerety, Keegan Walker, Dylan Sullivan and Owen Maag — were staples in the weight room and led by example and they really took coaching. They all got better and it was contagious.

“Unfortunately, we’re just not quite there yet, but because of this senior class I don’t see any reason why we can’t compete with teams like that in the future. We’ve just got a lot more work to do.”

Landers’ 19-yard TD run made it 14-7 with 1:33 left in the first half. He then recovered a fumble that set up Begin’s 1-yard TD run with 16 seconds left for a 22-7 cushion. Landers made it 30-7 with a 12-yard run to cap the first drive of the third quarter. As he had done on his first scoring run, Landers followed Bennett, who pulled and provided a powerful escort on a sweep.

“I trust him with everything,” Landers said of Bennett. “When we’re running outside, people are coming (at you) fast, but I trust being behind him every single time.”

“Sophomore year I started at center because there was an opening there and it was an opportunity for me to play varsity,” Bennett said. “I took it, but I never liked center. I always had a special spot (in my heart) for tackles and guards. I stuck with it for two years at center and got my opportunity at tackle this year. Absolutely loved it to finish out my (career).”

Landers added a 10-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter, and Begin scampered in from 6 yards out to complete the scoring. Meanwhile, Blue Hills’ defense was impenetrable, forcing five turnovers (three fumbles, two INTs).

“This is the mountain that we always want to climb,” Madden said. “The vocational championship, that’s the destination. Sometimes we don’t get there. To be able to get there this year and for them to pull it out, it’s really great.” 

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