EASTON - Since the first snap of the first preseason practice, Brighton's goal was to finish 12-0. Thanks to Kameel Lashley, the Bengals did just that.
Brighton defeated West Bridgewater, 16-8, at Stonehill College yesterday in the Division 4 Super Bowl, riding Lashley's legs to the title. The quarterback ran for 123 yards and a touchdown and made the game-sealing interception on a blustery afternoon with gusting winds that made passing very difficult.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound Lashley looked more like a star running back than a quarterback, punishing a smaller Wildcat defense with powerful sneaks and scrambles while leading the Bengals to their first Super Bowl victory.
"We were playing a stronger team," West Bridgewater coach Bill Panos said. "Their line was stronger than our line. We couldn't contain [Lashley]. It was almost a shame to cover the pass because he would just run down the field."
Lashley led the offense, but it was Daeshod Perry who put the Bengals ahead for good. After the Bengal defense stopped the Wildcats on a fourth-and-3 from the West Bridgewater 40, Perry took the handoff on the second snap of the subsequent possession and went through a huge hole on the right side for a 34-yard touchdown. Lashley's pass to Manny Boria on the conversion made it 16-8 with a 1:52 left.
Going into the strong wind, West Bridgewater's attempt to repeat as Division 4 champions ended with Lashley's interception of Matt Nunes's pass.
The game was a rematch of last year's Super Bowl, in which West Bridgewater pulled away from a halftime tie to win, 34-14. This time the Bengals pulled the game out after a halftime tie.
"They're a good, tough team. They came out last year with a victory; this time it was ours," Brighton coach James Philip said. "I've never coached a champion before, it's outstanding."
Brighton got on the scoreboard first, taking the opening possession 86 yards in 5:48. Lashley called his own number four times on the drive for 27 yards, capped by a 2-yard wedge up the middle to give the Bengals an 8-0 lead.
The Bengals dominated most of the half, and West Bridgewater lined up to punt with time ticking down in the second quarter after little offensive output. But Panos rolled the dice, calling a fake punt from his 26. Matt Harris threw a quick pass up the middle to a wide-open Greg Pigeon, who ran down the right sideline to the Brighton 22. The Wildcats scored three plays later when Harris ran it in from the 10 with 47 seconds left, and West Bridgewater went into the locker room with a tie and the momentum.
"We've been practicing that [fake punt] play every Friday for four years but never had the courage to use it," Panos said.
The courage paid off, and it changed the momentum. West Bridgewater marched down the field to start the second half, but facing first and goal from the 2, the Wildcats committed two false starts, and on fourth down from the 2, Nunes was stuffed on a QB sneak. Momentum went back to the Bengals.
The Brighton players were eager to battle the Wildcats for the Super Bowl again, and let them know when the teams met up during the summer.
"We told them we'd see them in the Super Bowl," Brighton linebacker Kariym Azeez said.
And this time, it was Brighton that came away victorious. Both coaches can now hope for a chance to break the 1-1 tie.
"I'm not greedy, but I'd like to come back. Maybe we'll have a rubber match next year," Philip said.