MALDEN — The attention span of teenagers being what it is, some high school football teams might take their eyes off the ball if they already knew they'd be playing in the state championship in 10 days.
Not the Bishop Fenwick Crusaders — a fact which illustrates why the Black-and-Gold are playing at a championship level.
Fenwick battered Malden Catholic 46-18 on a rain soaked Thanksgiving Eve at Brother Gilbert Stadium. From the opening kickoff, the Crusaders (10-1) were crisp and nearly flawless in their execution, showing absolutely no signs of hangover after punching their ticket to the Division 6 Super Bowl by winning the North title nearly two weeks prior.
"All week, coach Woods and coach Dugan told us the best way to prepare for Ashland was to prepare for Malden Catholic," said junior captain Matt Juneau, who led a dominant effort on the offensive and defensive lines for the visitors.
"Thanksgiving football is such a tradition in Massachusetts. This game means so much to us, to the alumni, our coaches, all our families ... it's a great feeling to send our seniors off with a holiday win. It was a great team win."
Senior David Cifuentes earned the Sal Tripoli Award, given annually to the MVP of Fenwick's Thanksgiving football game in honor of the MVP of the '72 game who was tragically killed in a car accident two years later. With a team-best 75 rushing yards and a 90-yard kick return for a touchdown, Cifuentes did his usual damage carrying the ball.
His loudest play, though, came on punt coverage when he ran down the MC return man and delivered the biggest hit of the evening to a roar for the Fenwick sideline.
"David has great energy. He's always in a good mood, always giving 100 percent," said Fenwick head coach Dave Woods. "He's a great athlete and he does it all. He kicks, runs, hit hard ... he's a fun kid to coach."
Junior captain Chrys Wilson had a tremendous game for Fenwick with a hand in six of his team's seven touchdowns. He eluded the MC defense on scoring runs of 12, 31 and 18 yards all in the first 13 minutes of the game. He ran for 57 yards in total, threw for 140 including TD passes to Stefano Fabiano (64 yards) and Angel Martinez (52 yards) — and for good measure, intercepted a pass and added a tackle-for-loss on defense.
"The bigger the game, the better Chrys plays and he was phenomenal tonight," Woods said. "It looked almost effortless for him. He made great decisions as far as when to tuck it and run, and he threw some really nice balls."
Defensively, Andrew Wilson and Jimmy Espinal led a Fenwick front that was relentless in the early going. The total yardage favored the Crusaders 171-6 at the time MC (2-9) gained its initial first down in the second quarter. It was 32-6 at the break and the Crusaders freely substituted on both sides of the ball after halftime.
"We really got after it in the early part of the game. We had a great week of preparation and it showed," said Woods, who has now beaten four different opponents in Thanksgiving matchups including Austin Prep, Pingree and St. Mary's before this year's initial meeting with the Lancers.
"These guys came in with the right mindset, for sure."
Tucker Destino added a late score on a 9-yard plunge and ran for 52 total yards. For MC, Sean Kelley ran for a touchdown and caught a 57-yard bomb for another score while Zeke Bragg broke the shutout with a 44-yard scamper up the gut in the second quarter.
The yards from scrimmage favored Fenwick 240-67 at halftime and wound up 360-243 by the end of the game.
"MC had a good team with athletes everywhere. We had to play hard and set the tone early," said Juneau. "Now, we can start thinking about Gillette."
Bishop Fenwick 46, Malden Catholic 18
at Brother Gilbert Stadium, Malden
Bishop Fenwick (10-1) 20 12 7 7 46
Malden Catholic (2-9) 0 6 12 0 18
BF - Chrys Wilson 12 run (kick failed)
BF - Wilson 31 run (David Cifuentes kick)
BF - Stefano Fabiano 64 pass from Wilson (Cifeuntes kick)
BF - Wilson 18 run (kick failed)
MC - Zeke Bragg 44 run (pass failed)
BF - Cifuentes 90 kick return (kick failed)
BF - Angel Martinez 52 pass from Wilson (Cifuentes kick)
MC - Sean Kelley 10 run (rush failed)
MC - Kelley 57 pass from Nick Paganis (pass failed)
BF - Tucker Destino 9 run (Cifuentes kick)
RUSHING: Bishop Fenwick — David Cifuentes 9-75, Chrys Wilson 6-57, Tucker Destino 12-54, Angel Martinez 3-17, Stefano Fabiano 1-4, Steven Woods 1-1; Malden Catholic — Zeke Bragg 11-98, Ciro Carbone 3-51, Sean Kelley 6-15, Brendan Brown 5-14.
PASSING: Bishop Fenwick — Wilson 4-7-140-2-0; Malden Catholic — Nick Paganis 6-9-73-1-0, Kelley 0-3-0-0-1.
RECEIVING: Bishop Fenwick — Fabiano 2-79, Martinez 1-52, Jason Romans 1-9; Malden Catholic — Kelley 6-62, Chris Gill 1-11.