LAWRENCE — As he broke through the line, with nothing but turf between him and the end zone, Central Catholic’s Santino Brancato needed every muscle in his body to keep from celebrating before the touchdown was official.
“I had to hold back a little,” he said with a laugh. “The second I got through the line I knew I was going to score and it was just the best feeling in the world.”
With 41 seconds left in regulation, Brancato took a handoff, burst through the line of scrimmage and sprinted 30 yards for the touchdown that put the Raiders ahead. A last-second hook-and-ladder was stopped at the 18-yard line as the Raiders clinched a thrilling 28-21 win over defending MVC Division 1 champion Chelmsford last night.
“This was just awesome,” said Brancato. “I had to control myself from celebrating because I didn’t want to get a penalty. Chelmsford was one tough team and this is a big win.”
Central, which fell behind on the first drive of the day and never led until those final 41 seconds, took over with 2:42 left in the game at its 37-yard line. Michael Milano quickly connected with receiver Cody Demers on three straight passes for a combined 19 yards. Then a pair of runs each for Brancato and D’andre Drummond-Mayire put the ball at the 30-yard line and set up Brancato’s heroics.
“The play was blocked perfect and the second I got the ball I saw the gaping hole,” said Brancato. “I got through the line and there was just no one. I wasn’t even touched. I just wanted to get in the end zone.”
It took center Cam Leary a second to realize what had happened.
“I was pushing the guy back and I knew Santino hit the hole,” said Leary. “Then I looked up and he was 15 yards down field and already in the end zone. It was awesome.”
But Chelmsford, which has lost three straight after a 4-0 start, wasn’t ready to give in just yet.
As time expired, QB John Campsmith dumped a pass off to Greg Johnson, who then pitched to Eric Van Gelder. The receiver advanced all the way to the Central 18-yard line before he was hauled down by a crew of Raider tacklers.
“I was expecting him to go deep,” said senior linebacker Ryan Doherty. “We had deep coverage, and they threw the short route. They got a few yards, but our defense came through at the end. I knew we would come through, and it doesn’t matter unless they get in the end zone.”
While Doherty had the utmost confidence, Leary admitted he held his breath.
“That scared the crap out of me,” Leary said with a laugh. “But we got them.”
It was a huge day overall for Brancato, who rushed for 116 yards and two scores while also making 14 tackles and adding a sack. Doherty was also a force on the edge, collecting three sacks and helping out on another.
They teach us aggression all week long,” said Doherty, who had two key sacks in last week’s win over Tewksbury. “When I see an opening, I go all out after the ball and want to end the play.”
Central Catholic 28,
agateText:Chelmsford (4-3): 7 7 7 0 — 21
Central Catholic (6-1): 0 7 7 14 — 28
C — Jeff Dauria 3 run (Charles Calenda kick), 8:46
CC — Santino Brancato 2 run (Thomas Jenoski kick), 3:30
C — John Campsmith 18 run (Calenda kick), 1:16
CC — D’andre Drummond-Mayire 8 run (Jenoski kick), 6:54
C — Campsmith 1 run (Calenda kick), 1:20
CC — Drummond-Mayire 7 run (Jenoski kick), 7:04
CC — Brancato 30 run (Jenoski kick), 0:41
RUSHING: CC (30-219) — Santino Brancato 10-116, D’andre Drummond-Mayire 9-60, Michael Milano 11-43; C (33-65) — Jeff Dauria 10-36, Connor Brimley 7-20, Sean Sarault 4-10, John Campsmith 12-(-1)
PASSING: CC — Milano 15-21-0, 172; C — Campsmith 14-25-0, 226
RECEIVING: CC — Cody Demers 8-71, Zach Coffey 2-58, Drummond-Mayire 3-27, Michael Barry 2-16; C — Eric Van Gelder 8-150, Greg Johnson 4-59, Devin Lekan 2-17
David Willis is a sportswriter/videographer for The Eagle-Tribune. You can see his video profiles at eagletribunetribune.com/sports