FITCHBURG — The Murdock football team kicked off the season Friday night by jumping right in to the proverbial fire.

The Blue Devils traveled to the Bernardian Bowl in Fitchburg to kick off the 2019 campaign against the reigning Division 8 state champion St. Bernard’s Bernardians.

Despite the enormously daunting task facing the visiting Blue Devils, the tourists from Toy Town certainly held their own before coming out on the short end of a respectable 36-21 decision.

Murdock second-year head coach Jim Tansey was proud of his squad, who had only 21 players in uniform on Friday night.

“We have a scrappy bunch of kids and we asked them to give us all they could and they really did,” said Tansey after the game. “We just wanted to be competitive and I thought they did right up until the end of the game.”

The play of the Blue Devils even caught the attention of the opposition as St. Bernard’s head coach Tom Bingham came away impressed with what he saw out of Murdock.

“Give Murdock a lot of credit. They were a postseason team last year and we watched them on film and they are a tough group. Their quarterback (Jack Polcari) is the real deal,” said Bingham. “I was really impressed with them.”

Polcari, the Blue Devils junior workhorse quarterback had a hand in two of the three Murdock touchdowns on Friday night, both through the air.

The Bernardians showed why they are the defending champs as they found paydirt on both of their first-quarter possessions. An 11-yard touchdown run by Nico Mancini capped a five-play, 60-yard drive to open the ball game and gave the hosts a quick 6-0 lead.

The Blue Devils were held to a three-and-out the first time they touched the ball before St. Bernard’s struck again, this time after a three-play 55-yard drive which ended when Wyatt Bingham found the end zone from 16 yards out to make it 12-0 with 6:17 left in the opening quarter. The Bernardians struggled all night long with the conversion attempt as they finished 0-6 following each touchdown they scored.

In danger of letting this one get out of hand, the Blue Devils answered on their next drive.

On a fourth-and-11 at the St. Bernard’s 38, Polcari went back to pass and unleashed a bomb down the left sideline. The ball fell safely into the arms of Luis Maldonado, who rumbled his way into the end zone to put Murdock on the scoreboard. Kevin Pesce’s kick was true to cut the St. Bernard’s lead to 12-7.

In addition to the touchdown toss, Polcari also used his feet effectively on the drive as he ripped off a big 37-yard gain early in the possession to put the Blue Devils in striking position.

The St. Bernard’s offense went back to work in the second quarter, adding two more touchdowns on a one-yard run by Dominic Cuevas and a pick-six of 72 yards from Damien Jones which made it 24-7 Bernardians with 8:02 showing on the clock.

Murdock responded once more before the halftime whistle with a 13-yard touchdown run by Logan Huff. Pesce’s kick made it 24-14 heading into halftime.

“I think we showed a lot of heart and grit,” said Tansey. “(St. Bernard’s) are the state champs for a reason. They are tough. We were able to move the football. I’m proud of them.”

The Blue Devils found paydirt just once more over the game’s final 24 minutes when Polcari connected with Pesce for a five-yard touchdown toss with 24 seconds remaining. Pesce’s PAT capped the scoring, however, as a failed on-side kick attempt gave the ball back to the Bernardians, who took a knee to run out the clock.

Polcari finished the night with 107 rushing yards on 13 carries while Maldanado added 65 yards on 11 carries. Senior fullback Alec Barrows also had a strong night, with eight touches and 34 yards on the ground.

The Bernardians (1-0) return to action on Friday on the road against Assabet Valley Tech while the Blue Devils (0-1) hope to bounce back next Friday night when they host the Eagles of Worcester Tech.

“It’s our home opener so the kids will be excited,” said Tansey. “I thought there were a lot of positives to build on tonight.”