By Matt Williams
---- — One of the only questions marks for the Bishop Fenwick football team back in August was its offensive line.
The trenches were one of the few spots on offense or defense where the Crusaders didn’t have almost every starter back, as the Black-and-Gold were breaking in a new center and the entire left side.
So Fenwick’s fearsome fivesome spent the summer making sure that they would be the last thing their team had to worry about in the fall.
Led by seniors Tyler Kaufman and Charlie St. Pierre on the the right side, Fenwick sophomore center Justice Andrade, junior left guard Brandon DeBerardinis and junior left tackle David Hurley have been outstanding for the Super Bowl-bound Crusaders all season.
“They’ve been our one constant,” said Fenwick head coach Dave Woods. “It’s almost an entirely new group and they’ve worked very hard on their strength and their technique. They’ve been tremendous for us.”
The unbeaten Crusaders (12-0) face Northbridge (10-2) in the Division 5 Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro at 8 p.m. Like pitching in baseball and goaltending in hockey, you just don’t get to a championship game without quality play from the line.
“It’s something we take a ton of pride in,” said St. Pierre, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound guard from Newburyport. “We can pass block and run block, and we’re pretty proud we’ve scored so many points.”
Fenwick has already set a school record with 482 points scored and stands a good chance of being one of the first teams in North Shore history to top 500 points after Saturday’s Super Bowl.
The Crusaders line has paved the way for a total of 2,924 rushing yards and also kept quarterback Nick Bona safe to the tune of 1,319 passing yards. That’s a rather impressive total of 4,273 yards in 12 games (an average of 356 per contest).
More than that, Fenwick does its damage on offense from a variety of formations. The linemen are prepared to block in power schemes from tight formations, and are also quick and athletic enough to run zone schemes from the spread formations.
The versatility and savvy to seamlessly transition between the two is harder than it look for linemen. The Crusaders have spent most of the season making it look easy.
“It’s not easy,” said Woods, who highlighted the work of assistant coach Matt Bouchard on the O-Line. “We have a few different schemes, and we keep it relatively simple. There’s still a lot for them to know.”
Senior Dustin McAuley has filled in as a valuable sixth man on the line, and it’s impossible to ignore the contributions of captain James Traversey. He’s a good receiver, but as the tight end he often finds himself lined up in tight in running formations and he’s been a reliable blocker all year.
Thanks to the line, it doesn’t seem to matter who carries the load for the Crusaders. Junior Rufus Rushins has racked up 1,289 yards and 20 TDs even after missing 31/2 games with an elbow injury. Bona has run for 835 yards and 12 scores, Robbie Carrillo has 392 yards and Charlie Maistrellis had a 100-yard game while Rushins was out.
In all, Fenwick’s top four backs are averaging an outstanding 7.48 yards per carry.
“Not much has changed for us (with the injury to Rushins, who will play in the Super Bowl),” said St. Pierre. “We kind of felt like we had to be even better. Rufus can make people miss and he can run through people. As a line, we realized that we needed to make even bigger holes, get off our initial blocks and get upfield.”
The line’s been mostly healthy for Fenwick, which St. Pierre credits to the work they put in all summer. In addition to strength training with Pat Downey’s Gridiron Training, they did plenty of cardio to get themselves ready for the rigors of what they hoped would 13 games of pulling, trapping and pancaking.
All that time together helped Kaufman, the group’s Catholic Central League all-star, St. Pierre, Andrade, DeBerardinis and Hurley bond mentally, too.
“We feed off of each other. All those 6 a.m. workouts and lifting, when we’re in a group like that together it helped us come together,” said St. Pierre. “For the most part we’re all good at most things, some guys are a little faster, some guys are a little stronger, but I’d say whatever weaknesses we have are balanced our by the other guys’ strengths.”