When Millis won the Division 4A Super Bowl game, 30-18, against Maynard on Dec. 3, there were all kinds of statistics and streaks to digest.
The Mohawks’ appearance and subsequent triumph broke a 17-year bowl drought and gave Dana Olson his first bowl victory as a head coach. The win over the Tigers, who entered the game with the state’s longest winning streak (16 games), made it three straight years that a Tri Valley League team has been to a bowl game and left as winners (two Holliston titles and now Millis). There are more nuances and numbers for fans to consider from the victory over Maynard, but two that stand out are linked to Millis quarterback Bryce Latosek and his offensive line.
Latosek, who’s only a junior, threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers, amassed 311 yards passing and finished fourth in the state in TD passes for the season (27). His offensive line allowed only seven sacks all year, providing incredible protection on 286 pass attempts in 13 games. Latosek was indeed a hero, named the game’s MVP by the Boston Herald, and his line was easily the team’s unsung heroes.
“Bryce’s greatest attribute is poise,’’ Olson said. “He never panics, and he’s got a great grasp of our offense. Our line, consisting of center Danny Fallon, guards Gerry Crepeau and Ethan Lezar and tackles Matt Kapatoes and Kevin Pyne, was challenged all year, especially by our coaches. The line was steady, consistent and workmanlike.’’
Another group Olson lauded was his linebackers. Kurt Hopkins, Jack Moriarty and Ryan Daniels had to fill three vacancies. “They were exceptional and did a great job replacing graduated players. They competed like old-school players.’’
Millis’ 12-point margin of victory never seemed in doubt in spite of the Tigers’ taking a 6-0 lead. Two Mohawk TDs made it 14-6 and Millis was in control with a 20-12 lead at halftime. The four TD passes went to PJ Adams (57 yards), Ray Hillaire (66 yards), Brian Espanet (14 yards) and Dom Zonfrelli (46 yards). Andrew Brooks kicked a 19-yard field goal.
“We had so many players who deserve mention,’’ Olson said. “We all know what Espanet brings to the table. He’s a scholarship athlete who’ll play at the University of Maine. He’s a pure athlete who’s ultra competitive. And, juniors like Adams, Hopkins and Brooks played well all year. Adams was a captain as a junior and Hopkins will join him as a captain next year.’’
Winning a state championship wasn’t a dominant theme in Millis after the squad bowed to Holliston, 28-7, in its opener, then had to rally to even its record at 1-1 by edging Archbishop Williams with three minutes to go in the contest. Those two games, Olson believes, showed the Mohawks’ true character.
“The loss to Holliston got us ready for the rest of the season,’’ Olson said. “We knew we wouldn’t face a better team all year. If we had lost to Archbishop Williams, we would have been 0-2, and that could have shaken our confidence. That come-from-behind victory got us untracked and ready for the TVL Small Division teams.’’
Olson also credits a decision made before pre-season camp opened as a contributing factor in Millis’ successful journey to the Super Bowl. The Mohawks’ staff suggested a venue change for a few days. The team spent three days at Mass. Maritime Academy, scrimmaging other teams.
“Most of our staff felt we needed it as a bonding ingredient,’’ Olson recalled. “There’s no doubt it helped. We came out of those three days with good direction, and it gave us the feeling of being a family. The key to our winning the Super Bowl was the close-knit nature of the team. You can’t force a team to be a team. Our players had one common goal, and they held each other accountable. They strived to achieve their goal together.’’
Olson, who has been head coach for three years at Millis, is quick to credit his staff, which includes his twin brother Dale, Bryon Rezutti, Jack O’Rourke, Roy Dickerson, Anthony Fallon, Tony Marino, and Jim Perkins. During Olson’s first year on the job, his freshman coach was Donald Kraby, who died of cancer before the bowl game. His passing saddened the players, but it also provided added inspiration. “There’s no doubt that our players wanted to win the game for coach Kraby,’’ Olson emphasized. “They were dedicated to that goal. I called coach Kraby ‘the salt of the earth.’’’
Olson is acutely aware that the victory over Maynard had big-time significance. They were not only unbeaten, but had the state’s longest winning streak. “They pulled off two big runs (71 and 57-yard touchdowns by Ryan MacCormack), but after that we stopped them,’’ he said. “We beat a very good team, and we beat them with our defense. We were on the mark defensively.’’
Olson, who says he thinks football 365 days a year, is now helping his players with college recruiting. And, now that the new year has arrived, he’ll be opening the weight room. Olson knows conditioning plays a major role in wins and losses. “I was an assistant at Bellingham when it won back-to-back Super Bowls,’’ he recalled. Those two teams and our Millis bowl squad are champions because they were committed to off-season workouts.’’
Aware that a host of juniors will return next fall, Olson isn’t making any predictions or suggesting a dynasty may be in the future. But, he’s quick to note that “Millis has returned to its past tradition of success and the foundation for next season is there for an okay year.’’
A Super Bowl title always gives rise to high expectations, and Millis is noted for its blue-collar work ethic and coachable kids.
“I told our players they now own a piece of history with the bowl win,’’ Olson said. “Our fans, administration, our athletic director (Chuck Grant) and our community gave us great support. Our victory is also a testament to the TVL, a league where I’ve spent 90 percent of my 20-plus years as a coach. Winning a Super Bowl as a head coach is now my top thrill. We did it with a special group of players and staff. We put our stamp on it.’’
One surprise Olson wasn’t expecting at the game at Worcester State was his brother Carl, a police officer who lives in South Carolina. Olson’s other brothers — Dale (offensive coordinator) and Brian — were present along with his father (Carl) and his cousins. The police officer’s presence, however, wasn’t expected. “He flew up for the game, and I first saw him after I had given my pre-game speech,’’ Olson said.
Football in the Olson clan is indeed a family affair.
SIDELINE SLANTS: Millis beat Greater Lowell, 14-8, in 1999, the last time it competed in a Super Bowl before its matchup against Maynard … The Mohawks advanced to the bowl game by defeating Sacred Heart, Abington, St. John Paul II, and Latin Academy … Millis’ triumph over St. John Paul II (Hyannis) snapped a three-year losing streak in the sectional finals where it bowed twice to Cohasset and once to Mashpee … Excluding the Thanksgiving Day game against Medway, Millis averaged 26.6 points a game for 10 regular-season contests … The three teams that downed the Mohawks during the regular season were Holliston, Westwood and Medway … Maynard entered the Super Bowl with a 12-0 record … The Tigers three victories in the playoffs came against Assabet, Turner Falls, and St. Bernard’s … Maynard’s Thanksgiving Day opponent was Marian-Keefe Tech, which bowed to the Tigers, 40-20.