With ice covering the field at Hummer Sports Complex for the the 4A Division 1 state title game, it looked as if the conditions would be dicey for Andover Central and Bishop Miege.
But Dawson Downing and the Stags made it clear from the beginning that they were a force to be reckoned with Saturday. Downing ran for touchdowns on three consecutive Bishop Miege plays early in the first quarter and gave his team a quick lead.
After that, Miege put the pedal down and won 68-12, successfully defending its state title. The Stags, 12-1, have won 25 of their last 26 games, one of the best stretches in school history.
Having a power back like Downing was a massive benefit for the Stags throughout this season. Not only could he run over any defender, he could also run by many of them, too.
Never miss a local story.
“It was a huge start to the game,” Downing said of his first three scores. “It’s great to start fast and put a big score up.”
Downing had an exceptional day on an difficult playing surface, with 24 carries for 225 yards and six touchdowns.
“We think Dawson’s one of the best backs in the state and the city,” Miege coach Jon Holmes said. “We went to Dawson pregame and asked if he was ready, and he was, so we wanted to make sure that he ran the ball well.”
But it was not just an offensive showcase. Sacks, interceptions and fumble recoveries were abundant for Miege. This included two fumble recoveries for touchdowns by Ray Vaca that extended the lead even more.
“Our defense was lights out,” Holmes said. “They were able to step up and create turnovers.”
The balance of a superb offense and stalwart defense made Miege ready to take on and dominate nearly everyone down the stretch of last season and this season.
“To do what they did with the pressure on them every week is huge,” Holmes said. “Everyone was expecting us to win every week, and it was tough to keep these kids together, but they did a great job.”
Sophomore quarterback Carter Putz was impressive once again. He ran the offense well and should be a key piece the next two years.
“It’s huge,” he said with excitement. “It’s so nice, it especially helped the play-action and the O-line, and then Dawson was just Dawson.”
As the team finished the final few seconds of the season, players went for victory slides and snow angels as the sleet and rainy mix fell.