WOBURN — One simple word has driven and defined this Bishop Fenwick football team.
It’s printed on the back of the Crusaders’ team T-shirts; they’ve carried it in their hearts and minds; and they’ve made it a goal for every single practice, play, possession and game they’ve competed in this season.
Yet in the first half of last night’s Division 5 state semifinal matchup with Abington, Fenwick just couldn’t find a way to pick up the tough yardage, twice getting stopped on 4th-and-2 situations.
Facing a critical possession late in the half, the Crusaders knew they needed to produce points before heading into the locker room, and the team turned to a familiar formation — the Jumbo package — but an unfamiliar ballcarrier. The decision drastically changed the game’s momentum and carried the Crusaders to a 35-8 victory that secured their place in the Division 5 Super Bowl.
Staring at a 2nd-and-goal from the 5-yard line and sensing the eyes of the Abington defense all focused on junior running back Rufus Rushins, Fenwick coach Dave Woods made the call — 47 Con.
”Whenever I hear that in the huddle, I get excited because I know I have big Josh (Niconchuk) pulling up inside the hole with me,” junior left tackle David Hurley said.
When Fenwick turns to its Jumbo package, Hurley and junior offensive lineman Brandon DeBerardinis line up in the backfield with Rushins, like a pair of bulldozers prepared to clear a path for a Mack truck. On this particular play, senior quarterback Nick Bona handed off to one of the bulldozers — Hurley — who followed Niconchuk through the hole and into the end zone.
Bona then connected with Hurley for the two-point conversion, giving Fenwick a 14-8 lead going into the half.
”All my friends tell me I can’t catch,” Hurley laughed. “Normally I’m not going out for a pass, but I don’t feel like my hands are that bad.”
The touchdown and two-point conversion proved to be a major boost for Fenwick before heading into intermission.
”At the time I said to one of my coaches ‘We’ve (forced) three turnovers and we’re losing, 8-6. That’s not good’,” Woods said. “We needed to capitalize. That score was huge. To go in (to halftime) with a lead was big.”
Despite turning the ball over three times in the first half, Abington was giving Fenwick everything it could handle. The Green Wave were big, physical and tough on the inside and on a night when Fenwick’s passing game wasn’t really clicking, the Crusaders had to win the battle up front. That’s exactly what they did before halftime, and it carried over into the second half.
”That definitely gave us a good feeling going into the locker room,” senior wide receiver Charlie Maistrellis said. “We knew we just needed 22 more minutes to put it away.”
Driving off that momentum, the Crusaders got a stop to start the second half and marched down the field to score their third touchdown.
Nothing was going to stop them.
That’s exactly what Fenwick will try to do two weeks from now at Gillette Stadium.
”We really want that ring,” Hurley said. “That’s been the goal since Day 1. It’s our dream.”
Matt Jenkins is a staff writer for The Salem News. Contact him at email@example.com or 978-338-2648, and follow him on Twitter @MattJenkins_SN.