MILFORD — In the second half of Friday night’s Division 2 quarterfinal against Mansfield, Milford’s Romeo Holland suffered a grotesque dislocation of one of his pinky fingers.
Luckily for the Scarlet Hawks, it takes more than a bum pinky to keep the running back and linebacker off the field.
The trainers at Milford popped the finger back into place, taped it up, and Holland was good to go to make big plays down the stretch, as the senior led Milford to a 27-21 victory.
It was Holland’s 6-yard touchdown run to the left pylon with 1:38 to play that accounted for the final margin. He finished with 243 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 26 carries, and also played an excellent game on defense.
With the win, Milford improves to 9-1 overall and advances to the state semifinal against the winner of Saturday’s Chelmsford and Catholic Memorial game. Mansfield drops to 8-2.
“This is easily one of the hardest games I’ve played in my career,” Holland said. “It’s a blessing to win this game.”
Of Holland, Milford coach Dale Olson said, “He’s just a hard-nosed, old-school football player.”
They needed all his skills to win Friday night, as the game got more dramatic as the rain fell heavy.
Down 14-7, Mansfield rallied when backup quarterback and running threat Conner Curtis burst through the line for a 40-yard touchdown with 8:34 to play.
Milford answered, as it did all night, when Nick Araujo sprinted up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown. His successful PAT gave Milford a 21-14 lead with 7:40 left.
Despite the conditions, Mansfield quarterback Conner Zukowski threw the ball well, as he completed 11 of 19 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. That scoring toss came on a 30-yarder to junior Trevor Foley to knot it back up at 21 with 5:28 to play.
On the defining drive of the game, Holland carried the ball five times for 49 yards, including the last six into the end zone on third and goal on an RPO that quarterback Evan Cornelius decided to hand off to Holland rather than throw.
Mansfield had one last drive, but could not reach the end zone to close out an epic game.
That makes two years in a row that Milford has beaten Mansfield, and two years in a row the Scarlet Hawks have made it to the D2 Final Four.
“Just proud of our kids,” Olson said. “Back-to-back years to come into this game, to win this game, is huge for our program.”
Mansfield actually jumped on top in the first quarter, as Zukowski hit CJ Bell on a 96-yard flea flicker to set up Drew Sacco’s 5-yard touchdown run.
Milford tied it on a 5-yard scoring run by Cornelius. Holland put Milford ahead in the second quarter on a 42-yard touchdown run.
Those heroics lasted all night for Holland, who did not seem bothered by his injury.
“Going to be ready for Friday,” Holland said. “That’s all we’re worried about now.”