By Jeff Hamrick
---- — BILLERICA — Thanks to a dominating regular-season finale, Whittier heads into the upcoming Division 5 playoffs exactly how a contender wants to advance — on a roll.
Winning for the fifth time in their last six games, the Wildcats breezed past Shawsheen 27-7 in yesterday’s final Commonwealth Conference regular season game.
“We’re still peaking,” said Whittier coach Kevin Bradley, who will find out his squad’s first-round opponent this afternoon. “We’re playing good football, but we’re not there yet. I feel we’re as good as anyone in the playoffs. When you go into the playoffs, everybody’s good, we just have to make sure we’re better. And if we play as well as we’re playing, I feel very good about it.”
With Jesus Sanchez providing a big chunk of the offense, Whittier (5-2 overall, 3-1 conference) scored on three of their four first-half possessions to take control early. All four of those drives began in Shawsheen territory.
Whittier’s control was so dominant it ran off nearly 7 1/2 minutes and 15 plays on a drive that went only 45 yards and culminated with Jaylin Deveau’s leaping 1-yard touchdown plunge. But before Deveau’s payoff, the Wildcats were successful on two fourth-down conversions in which they needed 5 and 3 yards.
“We just know on those (fourth-down plays) we have to execute,” said Sanchez, who finished with 138 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. “The line has to execute and guys have to run their holes right. Executing is all it really is.”
For the game, Whittier was successful on five of its six fourth-down attempts, including a 26-yard touchdown by Sanchez.
“When you go for it on fourth down as many times as we do and get it, it speaks so much about the character of the offense,” Bradley said. “They know we’re not going to punt. They don’t like it when we punt. I mean I hate punting. But holding onto the ball kept (Shawsheen) off the field.”
Whittier controlled the flow the entire game, running 33 plays to Shawhseen’s 11 in the first half and 57 in the game — 30 more than the Rams. In fact, Shawsheen did not pick up its initial first down or cross midfield until there was 6:30 left in the game.
The Rams were playing without quarterback Chase Rebidue and running back Chris Arkalis, who were out with injuries.
“They played with more emotion than we did,” said Shawsheen coach Al Costabile, whose squad got on the board with 2:34 left in the game.
“They just dominated in every facet of the game ... Field position made a huge difference, but blocking and tackling are the heart and soul of football, and they did a much better job of it than we did.”
Connor Bradley scored Whittier’s final touchdown on a 6-yard run with 7:10 left in the third, and the Wildcats then put up 3 more on a rare 22-yard field goal by Ralph Francesconi midway through the fourth.
Whittier 27, Shawsheen Valley 7
Whittier (5-2, 3-1): 6 12 6 3 — 27
Shawsheen Valley (2-5, 2-2): 0 0 0 7 — 7
W — Jesus Sanchez 6 run (pass failed) 0:13
W — Sanchez 26 run (run failed) 10:04
W — Jaylin Deveau 1 run (run failed) 0:55
W — Connor Bradley 6 run (pass failed)
W — 22 field goal, Ralph Francesconi
S — Alex Tate 1 run (John Reynolds kick) 2:34
RUSHING: W (47-219) — Sanchez 28-138, Jake McCartney 5-27, Scott Bonneau 5-26, Shane Mambro 3-11, Bradley 3-10, Tyler Litalien 1-4, Joshua Barton 1-2, Deveau 1-1; S (19-48) — Jason Baldwin 13-49, Tate 6-(-1)
PASSING: W — Bradley 4-10-72, 0 interceptions; S — Tate 2-8-16, 0
RECEIVING: W — Bonneau 2-30, Deveau 1-39, Sanchez 1-3; S — Baldwin 1-10, Reynolds 1-6