FOXBOROUGH - Pat Orlando walked off the plush Gillette Stadium field turf with a feeling of fulfillment on Saturday morning.
In The House that Brady and Belichick built in Foxborough, the Manchester Essex senior captain and quarterback was able to capture the only thing that was missing from his very accomplished high school football career - a Super Bowl title.
Orlando's Hornets rolled past Tri-County, 36-6, to win the Eastern Mass. Division 4 Super Bowl and complete a perfect 13-0 season. Orlando, the game's best player, was a big reason for the victory, completing 9 of 13 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 52 yards and picked off a pass from Cougars' quarterback Lucas Mistler.
It was the proverbial icing on the cake to the career of the three-year starter, who had an ear-to-ear smile after his team accepted its championship trophy on the Gillette Stadium concourse.
"This is the best feeling ever," said Orlando, who led the Hornets to their first Super Bowl title since 1999. "To end my career with a championship and go 13-0 is unbelievable. This is the best team that I've ever played on."
Orlando, the name that has become synonymous with Manchester Essex football, also set a new school record for career touchdown passes with 54. He surpassed his older brother, Vinny (2000-2003), who had 53.
"All week my brother was joking that I wasn't going to break his record," said Orlando. "But he congratulated me and he was really happy for me. It's an awesome feeling."
The accolades and stats have always been there for Orlando. His 25 touchdown passes ranks among the leaders in Eastern Mass. this year, and he has thrown for over 4,000 yards in his career. But until this fall, he has somewhat been kept secret, as he never had a chance to play on a Super Bowl stage.
Now, however, he has gained plenty of recognition, even from someone who has seen his fair share of great football.
"That No. 14 (Orlando) is a very, very explosive player," said New England Patriots Owner, Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, who was in attendance for Saturday's games. "Holy mackerel, Manchester Essex looked terrific."
All individual honors aside, bringing a title back to Manchester Essex was all that ever mattered to Orlando.
"Pat had great stats during his whole career, and he couldn't care less about those," said Manchester Essex head coach Mike Athanas. "He's never one to talk about his personal stats. He just wants to win, and that's what he does. He wanted to come to Gillette and win.
"Pat is a leader, he always has been. He is a great competitor and you can see it on the field in the way he plays."
Orlando had come close to his Super Bowl goal in the past. In 2006, the Hornets lost to Ipswich, 34-0, in the Division 3A semifinals. Then in 2007, Manchester Essex fell to Brighton, 28-7, in the Division 4 semifinals.
From those tough defeats came some good for Orlando and his teammates. They grew as a team and learned from those failures.
"We had more of a chemistry this year than any other year," said Orlando. "We all know each other really well and we're a close unit."
As an important piece of all of those postseason teams, Orlando took it upon himself to increase the team chemistry.
"I just used my experience to my advantage this year," Orlando said. "A lot of our guys had played in big games before, so they all knew what it was like."
Despite the often Superman-like heroics of Orlando, this Super Bowl run wasn't a one-man show.
Senior Clayton Morrissey and Max Quirk also served as captains and provided plenty of leadership. Both players anchored a defense that allowed just 161 total yards on Saturday.
Meanwhile, juniors Brian Ciccone and Ben Kekeisen, who were brilliant all season, once again had huge performances offensively two days ago. Ciccone had 10 rushes for 65 yards and a touchdown, while Kekeisen had 39 yards rushing, 58 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Junior receiver Doug Kenerson also had two catches for scores of 33 and 11 yards.
Those were just a few of the names, but Orlando will tell you that the credit goes to the whole roster.
"The line blocked perfectly, nobody was able to get to me," said Orlando. "The receivers all made great catches. Everyone stepped up and played huge all season."
Matt Langone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.