By Andrew Bluestein
FOXBORO — The top-seeded Hull Pirates took on the No. 7 seed KIPP Academy Panthers in the Division 8 state championship at Gillette Stadium, and the Pirates did what they were not able to do a year ago. After losing to Randolph in the 2021 state final, Hull made it all the way back and ran the table, defeating KIPP, 27-6.
The story of this one was the performance of the Pirates run game, led by senior John Gianibas, who was an absolute force. In the first half alone Gianibas ran for 111 yards and three touchdowns, and later added an Interception on defense.
When asked which one was his favorite, Gianibas said, “All of ’em. I dreamed of it, and I’m so glad it happened. I can’t express how this feels. This team means everything, it can’t get better than this.”
He then said with a smile from ear to ear, “I might cry a little, because it’s my last time playing, but you can’t compare to this feeling.”
The Pirates delivered the first punch, as on their first series they ran the ball every play all the way until they got to the 17-yard line where quarterback Luke Richardson found Ethan Campbell for six and made it 7-0.
After Hull got an Interception from Luke Dunham, the Pirates struck again after driving down the field capped off by Gianibas’s first touchdown of the game from 7 yards out. The PAT was blocked leaving the score at 13-0.
The Pirates extended their lead to 20-0 after Gianibas’s second touchdown from 16 yards out.
Hull’s defense forced the Panthers to punt, and drove 50 yards ending with Gianibas getting his third touchdown from the 1 to make it 27-0. Those were all the points the Pirates needed.
KIPP scored a much-needed touchdown pass with 12 seconds left in the first half, set up by three strong passes by quarterback Juan Setalsingh, who eventually found Morenel Castro for a 14-yard touchdown to make it 27-6. KIPP went for two and did not convert.
The second half was all defense. Both teams went three out on their first two series of the third quarter.
Luke Dunham grabbed his second interception, which got to the Pirates into field goal range, but with the wind being a strong factor they missed a 45 yarder. Gianibas had an Interception at the end of the third quarter.
The rest of the fourth quarter was a punt off, but Hull was fine with that as they rode it out until the clock hit zeroes.
Hull coach Mike O’Donnell spoke strongly about his team after championship win and singled out Gianibas.
“He’s one of the strongest kids on our team pound for pound. He was in the weight room all summer. Hard work pays off.”
He also spoke about his senior class.
“These kids started as freshman, they’re a family, they’re good students, they stick together and they finally won it.”
He summed everything up: “I’m so happy for these kids, family, boosters, alumni, and again, it’s a family and they all contributed.”