Sports 11-28-2018

RHS football defeats Winthrop for third straight holiday win

 

The 2018 Revere High football team joined the ranks of only three other grid teams in Patriot football history with an 18-6 triumph over Winthrop on a bitterly cold Thanksgiving Day morning at Harry Della Russo Stadium.

The victory was the third straight Turkey Day conquest by a Revere team of their Viking archrivals, a feat that now has been accomplished only four times by Revere in the 105-year-old rivalry between the schools.

The win also marked the fourth triumph in five years against Winthrop for coach Lou Cicatelli, raising him into the elite tier of RHS football coaches alongside the legendary Silvio Cella and George Kenneally — both of whom are members of the Massachusetts High School Coaches Hall of Fame —  as the only other Revere mentors whose teams defeated Winthrop three years in a row and four-out-of-five.

The contest started inauspiciously for the Patriots, whose offense was as cold to start as everyone’s car that morning. After a three-and-out on their first possession, Revere turned the ball over on their next possession with an interception, setting up Winthrop at the Revere 25, from where the Vikings punched it in to grab a 6-0 lead.

However, that would prove to be the apogee of Winthrop’s performance, as the Patriots soon assumed command of the contest on both sides of the ball.

RHS captain Darius McNeil, who ran for 120 yards on the day, was the main force in a 70-yard drive on Revere’s next possession with some big gains that culminated with Darius going over the goal line from two yards out.

Quarterback Jonathan Murphy connected with Eric Bua for a key first down pass on a third-and-six to keep the drive going.

With the conversion attempt muffed by the Patriots, the half ended with the teams deadlocked at 6-6.

Cicatelli and his staff made some adjustments on offense after the intermission that turned the tide in Revere’s favor.

“Winthrop was placing an extra man in the box that was making it difficult for us to run our usual offense, so we spread them out and that opened things up for us,” said Cicatelli.

The Patriots forged ahead shortly after the intermission, with Cal Capozzi scoring the first touchdown of his career on a 20 yard reception from Murphy on a third-and-four pass play.

Although the two-point conversion attempt failed, the momentum clearly had shifted into the Patriots’ favor.

Winthrop, which entered the game at 5-5 with a three-game winning streak,  proved a worthy opponent and counter-punched with a drive that got as far as the Revere five-yard line. But that’s where the Revere defense made its best stand of the day and thwarted the Vikings, taking the ball over on downs.

The Patriots then marched the length of the field, with McNeil, who ran for more than 1,100 yards this season, putting a fitting exclamation point on his outstanding RHS career with a 15-yard run for his second touchdown of the day to seal the victory and send the large crowd of Revere fans — who braved the single-digit wind chills to support their Patriots — into a state of exuberance.

“This was a total team effort,” said Cicatelli afterwards. “Everybody stepped up to contribute. I could not be more proud of them.”

In addition to McNeil and Murphy, among those who stood tallest for Revere were captain Frank Sims, who once again was all over the field and led the Patriots in tackles; captain Devin Matthias, who made seven tackles, including a sack; captain Zack Carifeo, who made two key sacks; Bua, who made a solid contribution on defense in addition to his pass-receiving; and Zack Furlong, who contributed some nice runs to take the load off McNeil, as well as playing solidly on defense.

In addition to writing themselves into the annals of Revere-Winthrop football lore, the 2018 Patriots also achieved what rates as one of the best records by a Revere team since the 1972-74 squads that included the 1973 Super Bowl team.

Cicatelli and his crew finished the season at 7-4, with the four losses coming at the hands of three teams — Gloucester (twice), Marblehead, and Swampscott — that had a combined regular season record of 19-2. The Patriots qualified for the post-season playoffs and earned the program’s first-ever playoff victory (over No. Reading) to reach the Division 4 North Sectional semi-finals.

After falling to eventual sectional champ Gloucester, Revere then defeated Burlington, another D-4 North playoff-qualifying team, in the runners-up bracket.

“All in all, it was a tremendous season for us,” said Cicatelli, whose team finished in second place in Tier 2 of the Northeastern Conference. “The win over Winthrop not only gives our seniors a win in the last game of their careers, but the excitement also sets the tone for the younger players and gives us a huge and positive boost going into next year.”

With a goal of becoming the first Revere team to make it four wins in a row over Winthrop on Thanksgiving Day of 2019, there is no doubt that there will be plenty of motivation to pump iron in the RHS football weight room in the coming off-season.

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