Carlos "Shorty" Bermudez may have been the smallest player on the field -- he almost always is -- but on Tuesday he also came through with the biggest play in his team's season … and maybe even in school history.
As covered by the Boston Herald, Boston Globe and ESPN Boston, facing playoff elimination with just 16.5 seconds remaining, the 5-foot-5 Bermudez turned in what might be the best kick return of the season in the state of Massachusetts. The tiny senior brought a Chelsea (Mass.) High punt back 70 yards for a game-winning touchdown for Boston (Mass.) Cathedral High to send the 11-0 Panthers to the Massachusetts Division 4A Super Bowl at Foxboro Stadium with a 12-10, miracle comeback victory.
"I knew [the punt return] was going to be a touchdown, soon as I caught it," Bermudez told the Globe. "I actually thought it [the punt] was a bad idea, but they took the chance and punted it to me and I took advantage of that. Touchdown, championship, and flashbacks of everything we went through the whole season. It just hit me, I had to score. I had to score."
He did that, and turned heads in the process. A wide receiver by trade, Bermudez is one of the most diminutive players one will ever find on a varsity football field. While he is listed at 5-foot-5 and 155 pounds on the official Cathedral roster, those statistics are quite generous. After all, he barely reaches the shoulders of most of his teammates, and that's with his helmet on. Fittingly, he wears the lowest jersey number possible (number 1).
Though he may not have size, what Bermudez does have is speed, and plenty of it. The senior used that -- and a phalanx of blockers in front of him -- to pave his way to pay dirt and one of the biggest achievements in Cathedral football history, with the team notching both its 12th win of the season and a spot in the forthcoming Division 4A Super Bowl on Saturday.
The punt return touchdown concluded one of the more remarkable comebacks in Massachusetts this season. Cathedral trailed 10-0 with just 2:00 to play, but the Panthers finally got on the board when Gee Griffith scored on a pitch from quarterback Matt Owens with 1:39 remaining.
After kicking off, Cathedral's defense held Chelsea to a three-and-out, with the upstarts choosing to take a delay of game penalty with just seconds on the clock to set up the final punt.
Cue Shorty Bermudez and a delirious celebration with Cathedral crossing into the end zone as time expired to earn a coveted Super Bowl spot.
"Believe it or not, we watched 'Rocky III' before we came, in which Rocky lost and had to come back," Cathedral football coach Duane Sigsbury told the Globe. "And we said, 'Hey, we might get a couple punches but we've got to come back.' As corny as it may sound, we talked about it at halftime and these kids never gave up."
Bermudez in particular never gave up, proving that he has far more heart than he has size.
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