BRIDGEWATER – After leading the way to a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead, all senior quarterback Jason Wonodi of the Brockton High football team could do was watch Bridgewater-Raynham’s furious rally unfold from the sideline.
It was an uncomfortable position seeing the advantage quickly slip away and it all came down to the rival Trojans going for the win with a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute.
B-R’s tremendous comeback bid ultimately fell short, with the Trojans unable to come through on the two-point try, as Brockton escaped with a 21-20 road victory on Thanksgiving to capture the Southeast Conference title for the second straight season.
“A lot of things happened in the fourth quarter, but we’re just glad that we’re on top with the trophy and we’re going back home to eat some good turkey,” said Wonodi, who captured game MVP honors for Brockton (5-6) by completing 7-of-13 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns.
For first-year B-R coach Lou Pacheco, he believed his team had exerted all its energy in the comeback attempt, which influenced his decision to go for two instead of try to tie the game with an extra-point kick.
B-R (5-6) ran a halfback pass on the two-point conversion, but the throw fell incomplete in the end zone and Brockton recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal it.
BR tries to go for the win with a 2-point conversion but they can’t reel in the halfback pass. Brockton still leading, 21-20, :40 seconds left pic.twitter.com/4OmEfs4vEq
— Greg Dudek (@gdudek10) November 25, 2021
“For us, that was our chance,” said Pacheco as the Trojans still lead the relatively new holiday series, 8-4. “If we could have scored there, we could have won it, stole it. But (playing for) overtime, we were exhausted.”
It would have been an exhilarating conclusion to Brockton coach Peter Colombo’s coaching career as he contemplated retirement prior to the season.
But Colombo, who owns a 126-74 record, said he will be back for a 20th and final season next year, which will mark the 50th anniversary of Brockton’s first Super Bowl title in 1972. Colombo quarterbacked the Boxers to that championship.
“Too many good things happening and I love my coaches and players,” Colombo said. “I just want to do it again.”
Brockton’s offense tried to catch B-R with its big-play ability all game and the repeated attempts finally paid off in the fourth quarter with Wonodi throwing two touchdown passes of over 80 yards in the stanza to break a 7-7 deadlock.
A play after Wonodi almost connected with senior wide receiver Lucas Pires on a deep throw, he went back to Pires on a similar play on the next snap.
Pires was left wide open due to a busted B-R coverage and Pires hauled in a pass around midfield and scampered the rest of the way for an 88-yard touchdown to put Brockton ahead, 14-7, with 9:09 remaining.
“The second time, I had to give him another chance,” Wonodi said. “I know Lucas is a really good receiver. Me and him have a lot of chemistry together. So, I looked at him and he looked at me and I already knew what was going on. So, I just had to throw it up for him to get it.”
After Brockton’s defense forced a three-and-out, Wonodi showcased his penchant for making home-run plays again.
At first, it looked like Wonodi had extended the lead with a sensational individual effort on a 72-yard run to the end zone, only for it to be negated due to an illegal blindside block.
Wonodi said he was “so gassed” after the long run, but two plays later, he managed to hit sophomore wide receiver Cameron Monteiro down the seam on third-and-16 and Monteiro bounced off a tackler and raced to the end zone for an 81-yard touchdown. John Dumas’ extra point gave the Boxers a 21-7 lead with 5:06 left.
“It’s just a matter of time with Jason before something big happens,” Colombo said. “When you got a kid that throws it like him, you got to take advantage, especially on a nice day like this. We got lucky with the weather and he came through.”
The only play Brockton’s offense ran after that was a kneel down as B-R roared back behind two touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Declan Byrne (6-of-14, 85 yards).
Byrne, who had completed just one pass going into the fourth quarter and came away with B-R’s game MVP honors, cut the deficit to 21-14 with 2:59 left when threw a 29-yard scoring stroke to senior wide receiver Nolan DeAndrade, who made a terrific leaping grab in the back of the end zone between two Brockton defenders.
“The kid makes plays,” said Pacheco of DeAndrade, who transitioned to receiver after playing quarterback last year. “Not anybody could have made the catch that he made there in the end zone.”
The Trojans then recovered the ensuing onside kick and marched down field once again. Facing a third-and-14, Byrne this time found senior wide receiver Ryan Breheny open across the middle for a 21-yard touchdown to get within a point with 40 seconds left.
Byrne finds Ryan Breheny on a 21-yard TD pass. BR an extra point away from tying it down, 21-20, 40 seconds left. pic.twitter.com/Pcu1TowqNs
— Greg Dudek (@gdudek10) November 25, 2021
“I tell everybody, 'don’t leave early,'” Pacheco said.
Wonodi opened the scoring late in the first quarter as he used some improvisation to stake Brockton to a lead. Wonodi found no room on a designed run play on fourth-and-goal from B-R’s one-yard line, but then threw back across the field to Mauricio Powell for an early 7-0 lead.
B-R answered with a heavy dose of running between sophomore Dawson DuBose (20 carries, 80 yards) and senior Michael Rubbo (14 carries, 53 yards) and Dawson leveled the score with a 5-yard touchdown run with 6:24 left in the second quarter.
But after that the two defenses starred along with Brockton’s special teams that came through with a blocked 20-yard field goal by Carlos Timas in the waning seconds of the first half.
Both Brockton and B-R executed strong turnarounds to their seasons as both teams started off 0-4 before they each won five of their final seven games.
But Brockton was the only team to lift the championship trophy as it has an unblemished 8-0 Southeast Conference record through two years in the newly formed league.
“It gave us another goal,” Colombo said. “A lot of years you wouldn’t have that. It was a goal of ours from day one.”
This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: Jason Wonodi leads Brockton High football to Thanksgiving win over B-R