By Matt Jenkins
---- — PEABODY — A post-game snapshot early yesterday afternoon pretty much summed up Bishop Fenwick’s football season so far.
Senior quarterback/linebacker Nick Bona, the electrical current that sparks the Crusaders, stood with a trophy at his feet, blood smeared and crusted in and around his left ear, victory in hand and unfinished business on his mind.
Bona earned the Sal Tripoli Award -- the trophy given to Fenwick’s Thanksgiving Day MVP -- after running for 150 yards and a touchdown, throwing for 78 yards and making a plethora of defensive plays, including a sack for a safety in the first quarter of the Crusaders’ 36-27 win over Pingree.
Battered and bruised but never beaten, Bishop Fenwick will now take a 12-0 record into next Saturday’s Division 5 Super Bowl against Northbridge at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough (8 p.m.).
“It’s a great way to keep rolling into the Super Bowl,” Bona said. “We didn’t want to lose, then be down going into next Saturday.”
Aside from resting junior running back Rufus Rushins, who only returned to the field last Friday after suffering a dislocated elbow in an earlier playoff game against St. Mary’s of Lynn, Fenwick played yesterday’s game near full-strength.
Despite a sloppy first half, it was clear early on that Fenwick would not be taking Pingree lightly. Similar in size, numbers and skill, Fenwick and Pingree battled from the beginning, with a few defensive plays setting the tone early for the Crusaders.
Bona’s safety, when he sliced through the Pingree line to drop Highlanders’ quarterback Griffin Beal a couple yards deep in the end zone, got the scoring going. Senior defensive back Charlie Maistrellis then scooped up a loose ball after a high snap and raced 63 yards for Fenwick’s first touchdown.
“We dug ourselves a hole early,” Pingree (6-3) coach Chris Powers said. “If that doesn’t happen at the start of the game, we’re looking at a tight game down the stretch. That’s all you hope for, that you can be in it from the beginning.”
Pingree — playing its first-ever game on Thanksgiving — cut into the lead with a short, penalty-plagued possession that ended with Justin Assad scoring on a 3-yard run.
The Highlanders, who came into the game averaging 44 points a game, then provided a glimpse of how explosive they can be. After Fenwick’s Brandon DeBerardinis scored on a 2-yard run, Pingree senior speedster Johnnie Spears took the ensuing kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown.
The visitors from South Hamilton then forced a fumble and Spears covered 57 yards on two plays — the first on a 38-yard catch-and-run, then scoring on a 19-yard run with only four seconds remaining in the half. The Highlanders led, 20-16, at the break.
“We had him at the 10 (on the kickoff) and the other touchdown we had him wrapped up. It was a combination of him being a real good player and us not really prepared to play at a high intensity level,” Fenwick coach Dave Woods said.
“We weren’t swarming to the ball. It looked like, ‘Oh, Nick’s got him tackled’, so everybody kind of let up a little bit. (But) in the second half we played much better and swarmed to the ball.”
Pingree managed 111 yards of offense in the second half, with the majority coming on Beal’s 63-yard touchdown pass to Assad. But Fenwick’s bend-but-don’t-break defense was definitely on display.
Fenwick also did a much better job controlling the clock, moving the chains and producing points. Junior Robert Carrillo (12 carries, 62 yards) scored a pair of 11-yard TDs and Bona iced the game with a 5-yard touchdown run with 3:45 to go.
Bona had a 31-yard run on Fenwick’s first scoring drive of the second half. He connected with Eric Razney on a 34-yard pass down the sideline to set up Carrillo’s second score. Then, he broke a 43-yard run before calling his own number again on 1st-and-goal late in the fourth quarter.
“They’re terrific,” Powers said about Fenwick. “They have a good running game, and Bona makes them go. He runs hard and he’s great on defense. They’re very, very strong.”
No matter what happens in the Super Bowl next Saturday, Woods feels like this Fenwick team has already carved out its place in school history.
“I don’t think there’s any question that they’re the best football team this school has ever had, probably the best team our league (Catholic Central) has ever seen,” Woods said. “At least the 20 years that I’ve been involved with our league, they’re the best team our league has ever seen.”
Bishop Fenwick 36, Pingree 27
at Donaldson Stadium, Peabody
Pingree (6-3) 0 20 0 7 — 27
Bishop Fenwick(12-0) 9 7 6 14 — 36
BF-Safety, Nick Bona tackled Griffin Beal in end zone
BF-Charlie Maistrellis 63 fumble return (Kyle Russell kick)
P-Justin Assad 3 run (Erik Fyrer kick)
BF-Brandon DeBerardinis 2 run (Russell kick)
P-Johnnie Spears 97 kickoff return (kick failed)
P-Spears 19 run (Fyrer kick)
BF-Robert Carrillo 11 run (kick failed)
BF-Carrillo 11 run (Russell kick)
P-Assad 63 pass from Beal (Fyrer kick)
BF-Bona 5 run (Russell kick)
RUSHING: Pingree — Johnnie Spears 11-81, Thomas Zaleski 10-27, Justin Assad 1-3, Griffin Beal 8-0; Bishop Fenwick — Nick Bona 17-150, Robert Carrillo 12-62, Charlie Maistrellis 4-5, Brandon DeBerardinis 1-2.
PASSING: Pingree — Beal 10-16-163-1-1; Bishop Fenwick — Bona 4-7-78-0-0.
RECEIVING: Pingree — Assad 5-116, Spears 3-33, Alex Salalayko 2-14; Bishop Fenwick — . Eric Razney 2-41, Maistrellis 1-24, Tommy Parsons 1-13.