KIPP Academy Advances Past Lee in State Tourney
LYNN, Mass. -- The KIPP Academy football team played well enough to score without any help from Lee in Saturday's Divsiion 8 State Tournament game.
But it got some anyway.
Three first-half turnovers and a short kickoff recovered by the Panhers factored into a 44-12 win for KIPP at Manning Field.
Juan Setalsingh threw for 264 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 25 yards and a score to send KIPP into the state quarter-finals.
Lee's offense, which gained four first downs in its first four possessions, also fumbled twice and thew an interception in the first half to give the Panthers extra chances to score.
"It's killed us all year, untimely turnovers," Lee coach Keith Thomson said. "Offensively, I was pretty pleased. I thought we were able to move the ball, and we kept shooting ourselves in the foot.
"You can't do that against a good team. That's a high-powered offense."
Setalsingh is the key to that offense. His athletic ability to extend plays in the backfield and ability to find the open receiver vexed Lee throughout the first half, which ended in a 44-6 KIPP lead.
"Give those guys credit," Thomson said. "We thought we pressured their quarterback really well. But he continued to extend plays and find open receivers. It's hard for your secondary to cover guys for that long."
KIPP Academy coach Jim Rabbitt credited Setalsingh with getting off a sick bed to light up the scoreboard in the tourney opener.
"Juan was battling illness all wee -- flu, bacterial infection, whatever it was," Rabbitt said. "He was fantastic. The only incompletions he had were dropped passes. We'll let the receivers know about that.
"He really gutted it up today. Special kind of kid, special kind of leader."
Lee set the tone for the first half with a fumble on its second play from scrimmage, and KIPP went just 18 yards on two Setalsingh passes for the game's first score in the first minute of play.
Lee got something going on its second possession with a 21-yard run by Tyler Bartini to get things going. The Wildcats went from their 39 to the KIPP 39 before an incomplete pass on fourth-and-5.
The Panthers took the ball and went 61 yards the other way for a 12-0 lead, and Lee never got any closer.
The Wildcats got on the board with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left in the second quarter when William Thomson (79 yards, two TDs) scored from the 4 to make it 22-6.
But KIPP got a 33-yard return on the ensuing kickoff and went 46 yards in two plays to score on a Setalsingh completion to Morenel Castro; the two-point conversion put the Panthers up, 30-6.
And they scored three more times in the last 2:59 thanks to an apparently inadvertent onsides kick that was recovered by KIPP at the Lee 35 and a Wildcats fumble when they got the ball back.
With the margin 38 points at half-time, the clock ran the entire second half. Lee's defense was able to shut down KIPP's second offensive unit, and Thomson scored the game's final points on a 5-yard run.
"He's been tremendous," Thomson said of the senior running back. "I hold back a lot of comments on him because his last name is the same as mine. But he's been phenomenal. He missed all of last year, his junior year, with a collarbone injury. And he worked incredibly hard to get back this year.
"He's been outstanding from Week One, and I think our offensive line did a good job against a good, stout defense."
KIPP's Rabbitt would agree.
"This Lee team is well coached," he said. "They've been here before. We expected a lot from them, and they gave it to us. It doesn't show in the score, but that's a tough, tough team. I'm proud of my guys for standing up today."