By Matt Williams
---- — PEABODY — The Bishop Fenwick football team may be 3-0 for the first time in 13 years, but the Crusaders are looking at this season as something of a gourmet meal.
The hope is that this start is really just an appetizer warming up to a fulfilling main course.
Make no mistake, Fenwick is happy to have matched their win total from each of the last two seasons already. Just don’t confuse happiness with a sense of satisfaction. The Crusaders are still hungry.
“It’s really nice but we can’t rest on our laurels,” said senior captain Fran Hannon. “It’s great to start out with three wins, but we want that fourth and then more.”
Fenwick returns to the gridiron on Saturday, when they take on Georgetown at Trinity Stadium in Haverhill. The Royals are 1-2 but they’re averaging 34 points per game and have a dangerous quarterback in Niko Edwards.
The Crusaders will be buoyed by the return of Hannon at QB. The senior missed the last two games and saw his team rally with a pair of gritty wins. Sophomore Rufus Rushins (443 rushing yards, 5 TDs) carried the load and junior captain Nick Bona played well at QB in the wins over Pope John (39-22) and Lynnfield (14-7).
“This is a group with great team chemistry,” said Crusaders head coach Dave Woods. “They’re coming together not just as a football team but as a group of guys.”
Last week’s win over Lynnfield was the 100th at Fenwick for Woods, who has been the Crusaders head coach since 1998. Woods guided Fenwick to Super Bowl appearances in his first three seasons and is one of only three coaches in the immediate area with multiple Super Bowl victories.
“To get that win for coach at home and in front of a big crowd was nice,” said Hannon. “He works really hard and he does a lot for us.”
“We haven’t won a lot my first couple years here, so to have one of the wins be coach’s 100th is pretty cool,” added Bona. “We plan to win a lot more.”
The Crusaders are wary of Georgetown, a team they toppled for their first victory a year ago. In 2010, however, Georgetown upset Fenwick and the Black-and-Gold don’t want to see that happen again.
One of the biggest keys for Fenwick is the offensive line, led by tackle and captain John Coviello. The Crusaders have worn down their opponents, outscoring them 30-23 in the second half so far. Besides the difficulty defenses have tackling big bodies like Rushins and Hannon, its been on the Crusaders’ O-line to bulldoze the opponent.
“Those guys did a ton of work this summer. It wasn’t so much power lifting, but flipping tires, running — they did a lot of conditioning,” said Woods. “They’re in great shape, they did a lot of things to prevent injury and that’s shown in the fourth quarter.”
Frank Tambini, Brandon Deberadinis, Charlie St. Pierre and Dave Gleason have combined with Coviello to help the Crusaders average close to 6 yards per carry on the ground.
New line coach Matt Bouchard has been instrumental in teaching the line the proper technique and keeping them motivated, according to Coviello.
“The key is just staying motivated,” the captain said. “As a line, we can’t be satisfied with anything we do, ever, because then the opponent will come back and beat on us.”
Rushins is also averaging 21 carries per game and is showing that he’s durable enough to carry the load and do more damage to potential tacklers than they’re doing to him.
“Rufus is showing that he gets better as the game goes on,” said Woods.
After Rushins and Hannon, Fenwick can hit the defense with speed in Charlie Maistrellis (135 yards, touchdown) and a combination of speed and power in Bona (86 rushing yards, touchdown). Eric Razney and Matt Renzulli are also dangerous in the passing game.
Overall, Fenwick’s main goal is to be competitive in the Catholic Central Large and contend for the league’s title. Proving they can battle through adversity over the first three weeks, proving they can finish games in the final quarter, and proving they can win has set them up for what should be a appetizing season.
“The focus for us is to get better every day and every week,” said Woods. “We’re very happy with the way they kids have progressed.”