PEABODY — Football is sometimes the cruelest sport.
The Bishop Fenwick football team put everything it had on the line Saturday night at Donaldson Field, even made enough plays to win its game against Catholic Central League rival St. Mary’s of Lynn, yet still somehow found itself on the wrong side of a 14-12 outcome.
The Crusaders ended both the first and second halves just a few yards short of putting more points on the scoreboard. The game’s decisive play — a lost fumble on the goal line in the final minute — made it two consecutive losses for Fenwick after five straight wins to start the season.
It may have only been its league opener, but Fenwick will now need help to contend for the CCL title. St. Mary’s (6-1 overall, 2-0 CCL), meanwhile, has clearly established itself as a league favorite.
“They played as hard as they possibly could. We prepared as well as we could,” Fenwick coach Dave Woods said. “That’s all you can ask. I gave them my John Wooden quote, which I live by, ‘The scoreboard never makes you a loser and never makes you a winner.’ There’s no way we’re losers tonight.”
Fenwick was positioning itself for a game-winning play with the clock winding down when fortunes changed.
The Crusaders, immediately after giving up a 47-yard touchdown run by Spartans’ junior running back Jordan Manthorne, traveled 54 yards in 12 plays and faced a third-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Even if Fenwick couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone, the Crusaders would at least have an opportunity to attempt a game-winning field goal.
Fenwick’s sensational sophomore running back Rufus Rushins, who earlier in the half eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in as many seasons, plowed through the line and, like he has done so many times this season, began fighting for extra yardage.
Rushins spun off the initial contact, but when his back was turned toward the goal line the ball was knocked free.
“We just wrapped him up and stripped it,” said Manthorne, the Spartans’ defensive back who fell on the loose ball. “I jumped on it.”
St. Mary’s did an excellent job of bottling up Rushins the entire night. Rushins produced 65 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries, but the Spartans survived an excellent game from Fenwick senior quarterback Fran Hannon.
Hannon ran for 116 yards on 21 carries, including a 1-yard TD run that gave Fenwick a 12-6 lead with 10:04 to play. He also completed eight of 13 passes for 153 yards, 40 of which came on a play Hannon extended by scrambling to his left, then dropping a pass into the arms of tight end Aidan Moulton.
Hannon’s throw to end the first half was also a beauty, a heave that found junior wide receiver Eric Razney behind the St. Mary’s defense. Razney stretched out to make the fingertip catch, but his momentum knocked him to the turf just a couple of yards short of the end zone.
“Wow,” St. Mary’s coach Matt Durgin said. “A great game; both sides played hard. Both teams laid everything out there that they had. They’re going in (for a potential game-winning score), and we tell our kids, like I’m sure they do, you gotta play 44 minutes. Somebody lays a good hit, and fortunately we came up with the fumble.”
Fenwick’s defense was very much up to the task of slowing the Spartans, but the guests did break free for a couple of big plays. Manthorne’s 47-yard TD was the game-winner, and Jordan Collier started the scoring with a 58-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Collier led the Spartans with 159 yards on the ground, and Manthorne added 98 yards. St. Mary’s was 0-for-3 passing.
Razney caught two passes for 69 yards for Fenwick, and Moulton added 47 yards receiving.
“It was exactly what we expected, and I’m sure it’s what they expected,” Woods said. “One or two plays here or there, but I’m proud of them, I love them, and they played great. I know they’re disappointed, but you gotta give St. Mary’s a lot of credit.”