A red hot KIPP Academy and unbeaten Hull will kick off a day of Super Bowls at Gillette Stadium when they meet for the Div. 8 title on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Top-ranked Hull (12-0) was in this position last season when they ultimately fell to Randolph in the championship game. The Pirates have worked all year to get another crack at a championship, a feat that the program has accomplished twice in its history, in 1977 and most recently in 1996.
“You go there and it’s a great experience,” said Hull head coach Mike O’Donnell. “The players always had their eyes on trying to get back. You dream of getting there once, and getting there in back-to-back years is really something special.”
Hull has veteran leadership with 14 seniors on the roster returning from last year’s contending team, including center Aiden Murphy, running back John Gianibas, tight end and defensive end Tyler Sordillo, quarterback Luke Richardson and wideout Austin Bongo.
“Those five seniors have shown great leadership,” O’Donnell said. “Those guys were thinking of this season as soon as the last one ended. It took a lot of work to get back here. We have a huge test, KIPP is a very talented team.”
The offense, which posted 31.8 points per game in the regular season and outscored opponents 117-19 in three tournament games, is led by Gianibas, who went for 270 yards and four touchdowns in their 35-12 win over Old Colony.
For seventh-seeded KIPP Academy (8-4), the six-year-old program has never been to a state title bout. The Panthers played in the semifinal in 2019, and fell 27-20 to this same Hull squad in the quarterfinal of last year’s tournament. The journey to the Super Bowl had a bumpy start, as injuries and tough matchups had them out to a 2-4 start through six games.
Senior quarterback Juan Setalsingh was one of those injured and returned from a concussion to post 2,000 yards passing, 26 TD passes, six rushing scores and nine interceptions on defense.
“Both sides of the ball, his leadership, his presence,” KIPP head coach Jim Rabbitt said. “How he carries himself on and off the field makes everyone around him better. He’s a huge part of why we’re successful.”
Setalsingh will be throwing to senior Vic Mafo, who put up 1,850 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns this season, and junior Morenel Castro, who compiled 820 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, including nine in the last two tournament games.
That high-powered offense complementing a stout defensive core is what boosted the Panthers to six straight wins.
Said Rabbitt: “You have to think that this game is going to come down to the final possession or final play, and that our team can overcome that adversity and come out on top.”
DIV. 8 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Friday, December 2, 3 p.m. at Gillette
Hull vs. KIPP
HULL PIRATES (12-0)
Head coach: Mike O’Donnell
Hull 35, BLUE HILLS 12
HULL 27, Cardinal Spellman 6
HULL 35, Boston English/New Mission 8
Hull 31, RANDOLPH 20
HULL 14, Mashpee 6
HULL 41, Carver 14
Hull 31, SHARON 21
Hull 26, ST. PAUL 6
HULL 42, Newburyport 7
HULL 40, Cathedral/Matignon 0
Hull 35, Old Colony 12
Hull 24, COHASSET 10
HOME TEAM IN CAPS
KIPP PANTHERS (8-4)
Head coach: Jim Rabbitt
ST. MARY’S 41, Kipp 0
LATIN ACADEMY 30, Kipp 14
KIPP 42, Georgetown 20
Lowell Catholic 32, KIPP 12
Kipp 26, MANCHESTER-ESSEX 14
OLD ROCHESTER 35, Kipp 8
KIPP 42, Whittier 6
Kipp 24, GREATER LOWELL 7
KIPP 44, Lee 12
Kipp 21, LOWELL CATHOLIC 12
KIPP 34, Oxford 33
Kipp 54, LYNN TECH 48
HOME TEAM IN CAPS
SUPER BOWL HISTORY
Hull is one of six teams in the field who were there last year. The Pirates have an overall record of 2-2 with the last win coming in 1996 when they defeated Bishop Fenwick 20-15 in the Div. 4B championship game as Bob Carreiro ran for a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to fuel the comeback.
KIPP is the only one of 16 schools in this year’s championship to be making its first appearance. The Panthers are riding a six-game winning streak entering the contest thanks to the brilliance of quarterback Juan Setalsingh.