By Dan Harrison
---- — FOXBOROUGH — With their 28-0 Super Bowl championship victory over Northbridge Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, the Bishop Fenwick football team sent a very clear message to the rest of Massachusetts: no Division 5 team was even in their class.
And a message like that is always delivered on defense.
The Rams managed just 12 yards rushing against Fenwick and 116 yards rushing over four quarters.
“There was no secret. Our defense has won games for us all year,” said senior captain and middle linebacker Nick Bona. “Defense won us a championship.”
At 165 pounds Bona looks like David, but hits like Goliath. He finished with 19 tackles (including one for a loss) and one-and-a-half sacks. He also knocked two Rams out of the contest and blew up Northbridge’s very first play from scrimmage — a counter — for a 9-yard loss.
But the signature play for Bona came in the second half on another counter, where the Rams pulled 290-pound guard Connor Gatto up through the hole. Bona came up and smashed Gatto back into the Rams’ ballcarrier, then regained his balance and made the tackle.
“You saw it; (Bona) laid some hits out there,” said Crusaders head coach Dave Woods. “He’s a great kid who’s going to make some college coach very happy.”
Bona wasn’t the only playmaker for the Fenwick defense; it had 10 others Saturday night. In fact, nobody on the defense had an off-day. Everybody made plays.
Fenwick assistant coach Dave Dugan dialed up the perfect game plan geared towards stopping the the Rams’ three go-to plays in the running department. It required discipline and tenacity from every member of the defense — and the Crusaders delivered in both departments.
“All week in practice we only ran their three big plays: the veer, the con (counter) and the (QB) draw. We ran them over and over again” said senior captain James Traversy. “If we stopped their bread-and-butter, it was to our advantage. Everyone was swarming to the ball.”
The Crusaders ran a nickel defense with three down linemen when the Rams came out in spread formation. Nose guard Joshua Ninconchuk and defensive ends Kevin Hannon and Dustin McCauley stayed sound in the running game while keeping opposing QB Koby Schofer in the pocket.
When Schofer did scramble Bona, Traversy and fellow linebacker David Hurley kept him from breaking the long one. Myles Connor made his first start playing defensive end when the Crusaders went to their standard 4-3 against rushing formations. In the nickel, Sabourin lined up in the slot and covered effectively finishing with a pass deflection.
The one time Northbridge did make its way into Bishop Fenwick territory, Hurley promptly picked off a Schofer pass.
Cornerbacks Charlie Maistreilis and Eric Razney kept the Northbridge receivers in front of them; Razney nearly had two interceptions on hitch plays. Safety Matt Renzulli didn’t allow anything behind him, either.
The longest Rams play from scrimmage was 22-yard pass, but Hurley’s pick ended the drive.
“No one has been able to run on us all year. We have a great six guys up front,” said Hurley. “It was the only Super Bowl shutout (Saturday). The whole defense takes pride in what we do.”
In Bill Belichick’s house, Woods and the Crusaders opted to defer after winning the coin toss, choosing instead to kick off, then receive to begin the second half. It worked perfectly as Fenwick forced a three-and-out on Northbridge’s opening series before Bona hit Razney for a 39-yard touchdown pass on the Crusaders’ very first play from scrimmage.
“We thought we could force a three-and-out and have a good first possession,” Woods said. “It couldn’t have worked out any better when we hit the TD on the first play. And you always want the ball coming out of the half.”
That worked for Fenwick as well as Rufus Rushins burst free for a 49-yard touchdown run three plays into the third quarter, increasing Fenwick’s lead to 21-0.
The Crusaders weren’t perfect on special teams Saturday night, but they did make the important plays.
Kyle Russell missed his first extra point attempt but nailed the final two he attempted. Bona sent every kickoff down to the 5-yard line, and all but one time the Rams had to begin their drives inside their own 30-yard line.
In what could have been a big momentum spin with Fenwick on top 14-0, Northbridge attempted a surprise onsides kick to open the second half. But Fenwick’s Coleman Hebert was able to pounce on the loose ball with a number of charging Rams in his face.
While the Crusaders met in the end zone near the lighthouse after the game, Woods’ young son Steven was laying on his back, doing the famous Lonie Paxton snow angel on the Foxborough turf.