By Phil Stacey
---- — WOBURN — They had caused three turnovers and started each of their first four offensive drives with outstanding field position, yet still found themselves trailing by two points before halftime.
It’s at that point that the Bishop Fenwick football team put it all together and started playing ... well, Bishop Fenwick football.
Junior workhorse Rufus Rushins, in his first game back from injury, rushed for 152 yards and scored two touchdowns while senior captain Nick Bona also hit paydirt twice as the unbeaten Crusaders went on to crush Abington, 35-8, in the Division 5 state semifinals at James J. Connolly Memorial Stadium last night.
Fenwick (now 11-0) scored the game’s final five touchdowns by using brute force up front, speed through the gaps and to the outside, and dominating the South Shore League champions defensively. Now, they’ll be playing in their fourth Super Bowl — and for the first time at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro — on Saturday, Dec. 7 against the winner of today’s Central/Western Mass. final between Hoosac Valley and Northbridge.
“I was looking to play against Northeast (Regional in the Div. 5 North final) last week, but the doctor said and coaches said it would be a good idea to sit out another week. So against my judgement, I did,” said Rushins, who scored on runs of 38 and 2 yards. “It was a tough decision to make, but you know what? I think it was for the best.”
The Crusaders held Abington’s running attack to less than 80 yards on the ground and wore down the visitors physically at the point of attack the longer the contest played out, forcing quarterback Bryan Dwyer to scramble out of the pocket much more often in the second half.
“We knew that they were going to come right at us, that they were a hard, physical team,” Bona said of the Green Wave. “But we’re a tough team, too, and knew we could outmuscle them and had more speed than them.
“We have a lot of guys who like to stick. That’s the best part about us; we’re a hard-hitting team, too. We knew they had some big boys on the line, but our guys took that as a challenge.”
Bishop Fenwick head coach Dave Woods loved what he saw from his team physically on both sides of the football.
“It was unbelievable defense,” he said. “Coach (Dave) Dugan had an unbelievable game plan (where) these kids watched (Abington) film all week, them knew tendencies and they played hard. They got after it.
“Yeah, they were hitting. And we had some of our biggest hits on offense,” Woods added. “(Wideout) Tommy Parsons threw a block downfield and knocked a kid over. They brought the physical part of the game tonight.”
Despite a lost fumble and two interceptions in the first quarter-plus, it was Abington that actually took an 8-0 lead on a 20-yard scoring pass from Dwyer to Vincent Picardi and ensuing 2-point rush by Aiden Cawley. But Fenwick came back immediately before the first quarter ended as Eric Razney returned the kickoff 38 yards and Rushins weaved his way through the Green Wave defense three plays later for a 38-yard score.
When Kevin Hannon recovered an Abington fumble at the opposing 33-yard line and 4:39 to go until halftime, Fenwick began to put it all together. Running eight straight plays, the Crusaders took the lead for good when lineman David Hurley, lined up in the backfield, took a handoff and punched it in from 5 yards out. He then switched jerseys (from No. 56 to 80, making him eligible as a receiver) and caught a 2-point pass to give his team a 14-6 lead.
“He works hard on the offense line, he works on defense. For David to pound one in, that’s nice,” said Woods.
Fenwick then put the hammer down in the second half. An 11-play, 82-yard drive in the third quarter, with Bona hitting Charlie Maistrellis on a 23-yard pass being one of the key plays, led to a Bona designed keeper from a yard out and a 21-8 lead. Rushins then set up his own fourth quarter TD wit a 23-yard burst to the Abington 2-yard line, where he took it home for a 28-6 lead.
“I did want to make a statement saying I was back right from the get go,” Rushins admitted.
“Everything with us starts with the inside zone play,” said Woods. “Rufus was out the last (3 weeks) but didn’t miss a beat. Him and Nick looked great on the mesh and looked good on the zone reads. He had some rust early ... but he rushed it off. He wanted to play tonight; there was no holding him back.”
Bona’s 30-yard interception return for a touchdown as time dwindled down, and Kyle Russell’s third extra point kick of the night, completed the scoring.
Now, prior to their Super Bowl game at Gillette, Fenwick will host Pingree School (6-2) on Thanksgiving before playing in the school’s sixth Super Bowl. Fenwick has won twice, both under Woods, in 1999 and 2000.
“We’ve reached our goal — almost,” said Bona.
Division 5 state semifinal
Bishop Fenwick 35, Abington 8
at Connolly Memorial Stadium, Woburn
Abington (9-2) 8 0 0 0 — 8
Bishop Fenwick (11-0) 6 8 7 14 — 35
A-Vincent Picardi 20 pass from Bryan Dwyer (Aidan Cawley rush)
BF-Rufus Rushins 38 run (rush failed)
BF-David Hurley 5 run (Hurley pass from Nick Bona)
BF-Bona 1 run (Kyle Russell kick)
BF-Rushins 2 run (Russell kick)
BF-Bona 30 interception return (Russell kick)
RUSHING: Abington — Matt Kilmain 7-42, Jason Halpin 7-19, Steven Manning 4-12, Al Freeman 4-5, Shawn Donovan 3-3, Bryan Dwyer 9-(-3); Bishop Fenwick — Rufus Rushins 21-152, Nick Bona 11-48, David Hurley 2-9, Robert Carrillo 1-3, Brandon DeBeradinis 1-3, Charlie Maistrellis 1-2.
PASSING: Abington — Dwyer 6-15-95-1-4; Bishop Fenwick — Bona 3-8-44-0-0.
RECEIVING: Abington — Donovan 1-44, Vincent Picardi 1-20, Freeman 2-16, Halpin 2-15; Bishop Fenwick — Maistrellis 1-35, Eric Razney 1-6, Tommy Parsons 1-3.