Cardinal Spellman football defeats St. Mary’s of Lynn in MIAA playoffs

BROCKTON — The last time Matt O’Donnell saw this picture — a St. Mary’s-Cardinal Spellman Catholic Central League football clash on his home turf — he was admittedly antsy and frustrated.

Concussed, too.

All he could do was watch. O’Donnell was sidelined for the Oct. 20 matchup against St. Mary’s, a 12-0 loss at home, due to a concussion he suffered the previous week against Bishop Feehan.

O’Donnell returned Friday night for the rematch against St. Mary’s in the first round Div. 6 tournament, and cranked out 232 rushing yards and two TDs as the No. 6 Cardinals — not held scoreless this time — powered their way to a 41-30 win to advance to the Elite Eight. Cardinal Spellman will travel to No. 3 Salem in the state quarterfinals (date/time TBD).

“It killed me to watch that game on the sidelines. I was really pumped for this game,” O’Donnell said. “I’ve always played both sides of the ball my whole life, every single snap. It was definitely different to sit out and watch a game – I’ve never been good at that. I was just so antsy. I needed to get out there.”

In response to St. Mary’s scoring 16 consecutive points to take the lead at the start of the second half, O’Donnell orchestrated three scoring drives to spot Cardinal Spellman 20 straight points of its own down the stretch. He shimmied in for a 18-yard TD late in the third to give the Cardinals a 27-22 lead entering the fourth, then found senior Jay Comeau for a 20-yard TD and ripped off a 35-yard TD run to balloon the lead to 41-22 inside three minutes to play.

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O’Donnell finished 7-for-12 passing for 91 yards and 1 TD in the win.

“When you put the ball in No. 2’s hands, good things are going to happen,” Cardinal Spellman co-coach Ryan Donovan said.

Donovan said leading into the regular-season matchup with St. Mary’s two weeks ago, his team had three days to “flip the offense on its head” without O’Donnell under center. The Cardinals were also missing starting linemen Mauricio Gaytan and Evan Malick (who recovered a fumble in Friday’s win) for that one. Both have played on the varsity squad since their sophomore years.

In Friday’s win, sophomore running back Chris Soto had 12 carries for 72 yards and two first-half touchdowns that paced Cardinal Spellman’s 14-6 advantage at intermission. In the passing game, Comeau finished with five catches for 74 yards and the one touchdown on a slant pattern that broke open a 34-22 lead with 11:01 to play.

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“Matty threw up a perfect ball and usually, nine times out of 10, when No. 14 is (defended) one-on-one, he’s going to come down with it,” Donovan said.

Comeau also drilled 5-for-5 extra-points.

“Jay’s pretty much our difference-maker out here,” Donovan said. “We try to put him in a bunch of different spots to see how the defense aligns and what we can take. We put him in motion a bunch. He was flying around the field: we were getting him to the outside, hitting him with some passes. We were doing some creative stuff that we were working on all week. It looked pretty good.”

Onto the Elite Eight next week.

“They’re just fighters. They have the mentality that they can do anything,” Donovan said of his players. “They’ve come together in the locker room. They’re a tight-knit group. Everyone loves each other and they make each other better. The kids love the game. … It warms your heart as a coach to see how dedicated these kids are.”


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