HAMILTON — On any given offensive play, Bishop Fenwick quarterback Nick Bona has at least four legitimate receivers to throw to — not to mention a lethal running game with bruising Rufus Rushins in the backfield.
The number of options the Crusaders’ offense has to work with left Hamilton-Wenham’s defenders in dismay Saturday afternoon as the visitors racked over 400 rushing yards as a team during a 54-27 victory at the Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School Field.
Rushins, who ran for 1,300 yards a year ago, picked up where he left off in Saturday’s season opener with 184 yards and four touchdowns.
“I don’t know if I expected that many points coming into the game,” said Fenwick head coach Dave Woods. “I thought it was going to be more of a 20-14 game, but either way we’ll take the win.
“We have some explosive kids for sure. I think there were a lot of mistakes by both teams in the first half, but we have guys like (receivers) Charlie (Maistrellis), Eric (Razney) and James (Traversey) that can score at any time.”
It was the second-most points ever allowed in one game by a Hamilton-Wenham team; Pentucket thrashed the Generals back in 1968, 64-6.
The Crusaders trailed Hamilton-Wenham, 21-17, at halftime, but exploded in the second half — particularly in the fourth quarter. In that final frame, they outscored the Generals 23-0 on four unanswered scoring drives to pull away for the win.
In all, the Crusaders were able to convert on six of their final seven drives; in addition to the four fourth quarter scores, Maistrellis took back a 90-yard kickoff return and Bona connected with Traversey for a 23-yard touchdown pass. Bona joined Rushins by going over 100 yards rushing (108).
“I thought we came out a little slow, but once we got the swing of things we hit the ground running,” said Bona, one of five captains for the Crusaders. “We finally got warmed up. We haven’t played a real game in nine months, but everything started clicking in the second half.”
Despite losing arguably their top player, Cam Macri, on the second play of the game to an ankle injury (he didn’t return), the Generals fought tooth and nail and trailed by only four points at the end of the third quarter. But Fenwick’s monstrous fourth quarter did the home team in.
“It was the worse case scenario for us,” said H-W head coach Andrew Morency. “We have strengths and weaknesses and every team has their stud, and (Macri’s) ours. Losing him on the second play was a huge loss for us, but I do commend on our guys for fighting the way they did. We were right there until the third.”
With Macri sidelined, Hamilton-Wenham resorted to more of a passing game. First-year senior quarterback Jack Clay looked like a natural in completing 12 of his 19 passes for 211 yards while connecting with three different receivers for four touchdowns.
The Generals’ top targets, Christian Ecker (75 yards receiving) and Peter Duval, came up big on both sides of the ball when they needed to, but Fenwick’s offensive pressure was just too much to handle down the stretch.
Like most first games will show, Woods saw some things from his team that need correcting and is prepared to work on before Friday’s game against 1-1 North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie.
“We’ve had a great preseason and great scrimmages on defense, but we didn’t show that at all,” Woods added. “Again, though, we’ve been sitting around for almost two weeks not playing anybody. Maybe we were too complacent at practice, because there was a lot of standing around and watching on defense (Saturday).”
Fenwick kicker Kyle Russell hit two field goals and went 6-for-7 in extra point attempts, putting up 12 points.