PEABODY — The first seven football games of Bishop Fenwick’s season were showcases of speed, athleticism, strength and intelligence.
Last night, in a Division 5 North first round game against St. Mary’s, the Crusaders proved they can win with heart.
Powerful junior running back Rufus Rushins, who came into the night as the area’s second-leading rusher, was knocked out of the game with a dislocated elbow. At the time, Fenwick led by just one point, but the Crusaders rose to the occasion and pulled away with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns in a 33-12 victory.
The final score is deceiving.
“We knew it was going to be a battle and that was the most fun we’ve had at halftime in a long time. That’s football,” Fenwick (8-0) coach Dave Woods said. “Somebody asked me about a week ago if your kids are going to be in a tough game, how do you think they’ll respond? We answered that tonight, no question.”
The Crusaders will play the winner of today’s Austin Prep-Whittier Tech matchup in the next round.
Senior wide receiver Charlie Maistrellis showed his versatility all night. He was the change of pace back when Rushins was still in the game, breaking off a 26-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Then, with Rushins sidelined, he took over as the primary rushing threat and scored the biggest touchdown of the game, bouncing a fourth-quarter carry outside and getting into the end zone from 27 yards away.
That score gave Fenwick some breathing room with a 26-12 advantage with 8:36 to play.
“That (score) was huge,” Maistrellis said. “It killed the other team mentally, and put the game away right there.”
Maistrellis set up the touchdown with a great catch on a long pass thrown by Nick Bona into the wind. On 2nd-and-15 from their own 31-yard line, the Fenwick captains hooked up on a 34-yard gain. Bona led his receiver down the middle of the field, and Maistrellis out-jumped the St. Mary’s defensive back for the catch.