NEEDHAM — There was plenty of rust to knock off Saturday when the Governor’s Academy and St. Sebastian’s football teams took the field with the rest of the Independent School League for the first time since 2019. But what eventually emerged from underneath was a thriller.
The host Arrows won the turnover battle, but Governor’s won the turnover war, recovering a fumbled handoff with under two minutes to play and St. Sebastian’s on the verge of the go-ahead score at the 1-yard line, holding on for the 15-9 win.
“There was a void for two years,” said Governor’s coach Jim O’Leary. “Some of these guys were affected by it, some of them are new to the school, but just being out here playing football again is so nice.”
Senior quarterback Tristan Aboud, a Quebec native, did most of his work on the ground, carrying the load on both GA scoring drives in the second half. He finished with 107 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
“We were missing one of our offensive lineman and there was a lot of pressure coming so we had to switch up the gameplan,” said Aboud. “It felt good to be back. This was extremely special.”
Trailing 15-9, St. Sebastian’s converted a critical third-and-14 on the Governor’s 34 with 2:04 to play when Braeden Donovan split two defenders with a beautiful throw to Jack Boyle, setting up first-and-goal on the 10.
Andrew Hahn carried to the 1 and nearly got in, but was injured on the play. After a short delay, the Arrows tried an unsuccessful halfback option throw on second down, then couldn’t execute the handoff, with Cooper Haas jumping on the loose ball.
The teams were scoreless at halftime before heating up after the break. Aboud’s 8-yard keeper gave the Governors a 7-3 lead midday through the third but they turned the ball over for the third time in the game on their next possession and Donovan, who threw for 143 of his 164 yards in the second half, finally made them pay with a 59-yard strike to Aidan Maguire to grab the lead back for the Arrows at 9-7.
Kristian Pothel had an answer, however. The freshman wide receiver had a huge return to kick-start a Governor’s drive then finished it on a third-and-goal from the 5, shedding a tackle behind the line of scrimmage on a jet sweep then powering through another at the goal line for the winning score with 5:32 remaining.
“Every game we play against St. Seb’s is a fistfight,” said O’Leary. “It’s been like that for years. It’s the last team that wants to get back up after they have been hit down wins the game.”