SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 16, 2013

Big plays on the big stage help Fenwick keep rolling

Phil Stacey
The Salem News

---- — PEABODY — Eric Razney was too busy speeding into the end zone far ahead of everyone else to have noticed what took place in the Northeast secondary behind him.

As Razney was scoring his second touchdown of the night, this one on a beautifully thrown 51-yard spiral from quarterback Nick Bona, Northeast defensive back Pedro DelToro turned to his left, looked at safety Avery Tango, and without saying a word reached his hands out wide with his palms up. It was the universal sign of What just happened there?

What happened is that Fenwick’s coaches had the Golden Knights scouted very well. They knew, with their own speedy playmakers and Bona’s ability to throw the deep ball, that they could cash in on long passes against a three-deep zone coverage that was prone to cheating up.

“We knew there was going to be a cornerback up close and a safety in the middle of the field,” acknowledged Razney, whose Crusaders hammered Northeast, 43-6, in the Division 5 North title game. “Coach (Dave) Woods told me two days ago we were going to be throwing the ball because we knew those plays would work.

“Nick threw two good balls in the middle of the field ... I took more of an angle to get them, and once I caught both of them I knew I was going to score.”

That one play, the second of six touchdowns in Fenwick in a battle of 9-0 clubs, was a microcosm of what the Crusaders did all night: cash in on the big play.

It was Bona and Razney twice hooking up for big TD passes; the other, a 50-yard strike on a fly pattern, gave Fenwick a 7-0 lead in the final minute of the first quarter. It was a 40-yard run on a jet sweep by Charlie Maistrellis that gave the hosts a 21-0 lead; it was a blocked punt by Matt Renzulli that resulted in a safety for Fenwick; it was a fumble recovery by 255-pound junior lineman Josh Niconchuk that put the ball at the Northeast 4-yard line, leading to yet another Crusaders’ touchdown.

But there was much more. It was a 54-yard punt return for six more points off the fleet feet of Maistrellis. It was Mike Campatelli, a backup QB who was thrust into playing defensive tackle because of injuries and rewarding his coaches’ faith with several big stops. On one such play, he literally tackled Northeast’s Tango as he was taking a handoff, resulting in a 6-yard loss.

It was junior linebacker Coleman Hebert having his best game of the season, particularly in the first half when he resembled a mass of disruption in the Golden Knights’ backfield, highlighted by a fumble recovery. He and teammate David Hurley completely stuffed an attempted double reverse by the visitors on 4th-and-7 from the Fenwick 49, the only time the Commonwealth champions got into Crusader territory in the first half.

“The coaches had us very well prepared. Very well,” said Bona, who threw for 123 yards while also having his usual launched-out-of-a-cannon pursuit to the football defensively. “We saw what they were going to do and had some plays where we could take advantage. And defensively, so many guys came up big for us.”

Abington is up next for the Crusaders in next weekend’s Division 5 state semifinals; then, following a Thanksgiving Day tussle with Pingree, they’re hoping there’s one more game to play on the first Saturday in December at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. It’s called the Super Bowl, and it’s what Fenwick has been dreaming of long before practices officially began in late August.

Based on what transpired last night, who would bet against them at this point?

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Phil Stacey is the sports editor of The Salem News. Contact him at pstacey@salemnews.com or 978-338-2650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.