PEABODY — A year ago Stoneham knocked Bishop Fenwick out of the Division 6 North playoffs, and the Crusaders were looking to avenge that loss in the opening game of the 2019 season.
The host Black-and-Gold did it in impressive style with a 35-14 victory, leading from wire-to-wire.
David Cifuentes had three touchdowns and kicked all five extra points for winners. He ran for 112 yards on a dozen carries, but this was not a one man show. Both offense and defense came up with big plays: Stefano Fabiano had two key interceptions and captain Matt Juneau came up with a fumble recovery that led to another score.
“Our defense was great,” said veteran Fenwick head coach Dave Woods, who is a Stoneham resident. “We had a game plan, and executed it. Our kids answered the bell; they flew to the ball, and turnovers played a big part.”
Fenwick took charge right from the opening kickoff. The Spartans had the ball first, but the swarming defense caused a 3-and-out. Sophomore quarterback Jason Romans led his team 62-yards on five plays with Cifuentes blasting around left end for a 36-yard TD scamper.
After Fabiano’s first pick, the Crusaders drove 65 yards with Joe Rivers going into the end zone from 10-yards out on the first play of the second quarter. Stoneham, the defending Division 6 Super Bowl champs got on the board with a 73-yard drive with Matt Dragone barrelling in from a yard out to close the gap to 14-7.
Stoneham was on the move again as the half wound down, but Fabiano picked off another Chris Fernandes pass to end that threat.
Fenwick wasted no time getting on the board on the opening drive of the third quarter with Chrys Wilson calling the signals. Tucker Destino had some nice gains, and a face mask call against the visitors proved to be a costly penalty. Cifuentes capped the drive with a 16-yard run to make it 21-7.
In the final minute of the third quarter Stoneham was bottled up deep in its end when Juneau recovered a fumble at the 2-yard line, and Cifuentes walked into the end zone unmolested on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“Right before the fumble I was thinking if we stop them here, they’ll have to punt from way back (in the end zone),” said Woods. “Then Matt recovered the ball which was so much better.”
Juneau, a junior captain along with Wilson, said he was tempted to pick the ball up and run.
“Our coaches teach us to dive on the ground to get the ball if it’s loose,” said Juneau. “I saw it rolling toward the end zone, but didn’t want to pick it up and drop it.”
Wilson, who alternated with Romans at QB and was a key defender at linebacker, said the team is close.
“We’re a brotherhood,” he said. “There’s a definite closeness on this team, and we’re all collectively working toward winning. This is a great start.”
The final Fenwick score was a 64-yard punt return by Angel Martinez, who avoided several would be tacklers en route to pay dirt. Another key to victory was the punting job by Romans, who booted some long ones to pin Stoneham inside the 10.
“It’s a new year, and a new team so what happened a year ago against Stoneham doesn’t matter,” said Woods. “Two different teams, although a lot of kids carry over. It’s a good way for us to start.
“Our blocking was great all game, and we kept Stoneham from doing what they like. They had one good drive with a fourth down screen pass. We knew it was coming and could hurt us, but didn’t cost a touchdown. It’s very hard to take away everything, but we were able to take away their power game inside.”