READING — It was only fitting that Frank Sinatra’s legendary hit “My Way” was blaring in the background.
Austin Prep coach Bill Maradei always has done things his way, and Thanksgiving Day was no different.
Relying exclusive on a ground attack, the Cougars churned out 280 yards and sent the longtime coach home a winner in his final game, 14-8, over Shawsheen yesterday. Maradei ends a 40-year career with 270 wins, good for ninth on the all-time list.
“I came back for the nine seniors we have here,” Maradei said. “I’m going to miss the kids. I won’t miss the grind, but these kids, I am gonna miss a lot.”
When the final whistle blew, players, both past and present, walked onto the field to embrace Maradei.
“I’ve played for him for four years and he’s the best coach I’ve ever had,” said running back Lucas Gobalys, fighting back tears. “He pushed us to our limits to make us the best possible players we could be. We’re just so happy that we could win this last game for him.”
Austin Prep (5-6) scored on its opening drive, moving 83 yards in 17 plays as running backs Dylan Cann, Ronan Noke and Gobalys, along with quarterback Matthew Rubino, took turns pounding away at the Rams defense. On the final play of the series, Rubino pounded it home from the 3, then added the conversion run.
The score remained that way until the fourth quarter when the Cougars went on another time-consuming drive. Starting from their 21-yard line, the hosts drove 79 yards in 14 plays thanks in large part to a pair of 15-yard runs by Gebolys (16 carries for 116 yards). As he did on the first drive, Rubino burst his way in from the 2 to extend the lead to 14-0 with 7:56 left.
Shawsheen got a momentary shot of adrenalin when Josiah Martinez returned a squib kick 64 yards for a touchdown. C.J. Zemetres connected with Santino Garofalo on the ensuing two-point pass to make things interesting. The Rams got one last crack, but lost the ball on downs.
“Like the song, I guess I’m old school, I always did things my way,” Maradei said. “I’ve been very lucky to coach at Dom Savio and Austin Prep, was very lucky to win a Super Bowl coaching my two sons (Billy and Mark). That’s the ultimate, you can’t ask for any more than that.”
Following the game, Austin Prep athletic director Jonathan Pollard presented Maradei with a framed jersey with the numbers of his sons on the arms along with the No. 6, a number the family has used as a reference to stick together.
“I’ve honestly been dreading this day for a while, but I knew it ” Mark Maradei said. “But to see all the support out here was special. He deserves every bit of this because he is someone who put his heart and soul into coaching.”