by Laurie Los Lee - S-T Sports Editor 11/30/23
FOXBORO — Everyone at Gillette Stadium knew who was getting the ball for Fairhaven. It didn’t matter. Justin Marques carried the ball 46 times for 228 yards and scored four touchdowns to lift the No. 8 Blue Devils to a thrilling 26-22 win over No. 3 Salem in the MIAA Div. 6 Super Bowl.
“We knew we would have to give him the ball to win this game,” said Fairhaven senior quarterback Jayce Duarte. Marques, a junior running back, broke the Super Bowl record of 45 rushes on his 46th carry for a 3-yard touchdown to give Fairhaven a 26-15 lead with 3:48 left. That was the 38th touchdown of his junior season, bringing his carry tally to 68.
“I think I gave it to him almost every time tonight,” said Fairhaven head coach Derek Almeida. “I probably should have gave it to him more. He just runs the ball so hard. “He’s so strong and he’s so tough. He gets tougher as the game goes on.”
The Super Bowl victory, the first for Fairhaven in 23 years, was gratifying for Marques, who came back from offseason knee surgery. “All that hard work paid off,” said Marques, who became Fairhaven’s all-time touchdown leader this year. “All that perseverance was worth it.
“Without the support of my teammates, I wouldn’t be able to do it. They believe in me every time to get the first down, get the touchdown or to get the extra yards.” Almeida had all the confidence in Marques to deliver on the biggest stage of his career. “He had the surgery, but I knew he was going to bounce back strong,” Almeida said. “(Toward the end of the season), we came on strong with him. If it was going to take 30, 40 or 50 carries every game of the playoffs and today that’s what we were going to do. We knew that that’s what we needed to do to win a football game today.”
It didn’t take long for Marques to help Fairhaven get on the scoreboard as he capped off a 7-play, 56-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run for a 6-0 advantage with 8:55 left in the first quarter. Salem responded when senior running back Devante Ozuna broke free for a 50-yard scamper and then punched it in on the next play from 1 yard out. Salem senior quarterback Corey Grimes hit senior Logan Abboud for the 2-point conversion, giving the Witches an 8-6 lead.
A fumble recovery by Fairhaven junior Jared Reardon set up another touchdown run by Marques – this time for 4 yards. Sophomore Grant Darmofal knocked down the PAT to put the Blue Devils out front 13-8 with 1:37 in the first quarter. Fairhaven’s defense, which forced three turnovers in the game, came up big before the half when senior Will Foster picked off Grimes near the goal line.
“We usually get a lot of people around the football,” Almeida said. “When you do that, I think turnovers happen. We made some great ones today. That’s a really good offensive team. I feel like we beat a really good football team today. We had to play our best football and I think we did.”
Salem struck first in the third quarter, scoring on a 73-yard scoring strike from Grimes to junior Quinn Rocco Ryan. A PAT by Grimes put the Witches out front 15-13 with 7:58 left in the third quarter. Fairhaven answered quickly with a 49-yard touchdown run by Marques, but the Blue Devils were unsuccessful on the 2-point conversion attempt and led 19-15 with 5:46 remaining in the third quarter. The Blue Devils put together a 17-yard, 73-yard drive, but failed to convert a fourth down for the third time in the game; this time at the Salem 5.
Senior Colby Correia recovered a fumble, setting up Marques’ fourth and final touchdown of the game, putting the Blue Devils up by 11 with 3:48 left. “Our game plan is to give Justin the ball and have our O-line fire off and knock them back and get yards. It’s great,” said Fairhaven junior lineman Ben Comey. “He gets all the carries and there’s a reason for it.”
Salem scored on a 15-yard TD pass from Grimes to senior Albert Pujols and Grimes added the PAT to get within 26-22 with 1:54. Reardon secured the onside kick attempt by Salem and Fairhaven’s offense was able to run out the clock.
“This is amazing,” said Duarte, one of six seniors on the team. “This is the greatest moment of my entire life. I’ve never been more happy. We fought so hard tonight. There’s something about being a Fairhaven Blue Devil that’s better than anything else.”