By Gianna Addario
---- — PEABODY — If there was ever a year that the Bishop Fenwick football team looked to be in position to go all the way, this would be the year.
As it stands, the Crusaders return more than a dozen starters with multiple years of experience and are led by a senior heavy roster.
The Black-and-Gold went 8-3 last season, a huge turnaround from the two seasons prior when they were a combined 6-16. They were hoping for a breakout season last year and got it — Now, they’re hungry for more.
“We’re miles ahead now, than we were at this time last year,” said head coach Dave Woods, now in his 16th season at the helm. “The kids have worked hard and I think we’re ahead of a lot of teams because we have so many veteran players.”
Senior Nick Bona has reclaimed his spot at the quarterback position, and returns for his third season as a captain. He’s joined by fellow classmates, Charlie Maistrellis, Eric Razney, Charlie St. Pierre and James Traversey as this year’s captains.
“Nick worked so hard during the offseason and he’s improved so much as a quarterback,” Woods explained. “He looks great, he looks like he’s in midseason form right now.”
While Bona played mostly wide receiver last fall (25 rec., 350 yards), it was Razney (30 rec., 405 yards) and Maistrellis (22 rec., 404) who led the receiving corps and will likely be called upon to do the same this year. Juniors Matt Renzulli and Aidan Moulton, and Traversey are among the tight ends expected to move the chains for Fenwick.
If those weapons aren’t enough, Woods also has his junior stud running back, Rufus Rushins, who ran for over a thousand yards each of the last two seasons and was third in the coverage area in rushing (198 carries, 1,302 yards, 17 TDs) last year. It was nearly impossible for teams to shut him down last fall, and the best news for Fenwick is that he’s even faster and stronger now.
The Crusaders start off the season with two non-league bouts against Hamilton-Wenham and North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie in weeks 2 and 3, before starting the league portion of their schedule.
Last June, Woods and the other coaches in the Catholic Central League decided to change the Thanksgiving Day matchups. Normally Fenwick has played Austin Prep in the past, but since the teams were going to play all of their league games up front, there was no need to play the same team twice in one season.
At the time it worked out that Fenwick would play Pope John, while Austin Prep would take on Lowell Catholic and each team would have an opponent on Thanksgiving. However, Pope John isn’t able to field a football team this fall, which left the Crusaders without a Turkey Day matchup.
Woods recently finalized a game against Minnechaug for Thanksgiving, which will play at Fenwick.
“They’re Division 1 team from Western Mass that’s been to playoffs the last three years in a row,” said Woods. “They’re a very good football team, so it should be good."