Special to the Journal
(Spoiler alert: The first sentence of this story does not contain any typographical errors.)
Revere Patriot running back Joe Llanos ran for 378 yards on 22 carries and scored six touchdowns to lead the Patriots to a 46-31 victory over the Winthrop Vikings on Thanksgiving Day at Miller Field.
Let those numbers sink in for a moment: 378 yards — 22 carries — six touchdowns.
Llanos’s performance truly was one for the ages in the 91st holiday meeting between the archrivals on a perfectly unpredictable morning for a football game that featured a slick field (yes, the turf is much better than the grass at Miller that would have turned the old field into a mud bowl in the opening minutes, but it’s the equivalent of a slip ‘n slide when wet); a gusty north wind that got stronger as the game wore on; and then an off-and-on, driving rain that began just before the end of the first half and continued until after the final whistle.
The 5-foot, 8-inch, 165 pound Llanos, who is all but a lock for the Northeastern Conference Player of the Year honors, ran for 144 yards in the first half and added another 234 in the second half, dividing his six touchdowns equally before and after the intermission.
However, despite Llanos’s herculean efforts, the plucky Vikings remained undaunted throughout the contest. Led by their own star, junior quarterback Bobby Hubert, who ran for 135 yards on the ground on 26 attempts, passed for 51 yards on 4-for-5 attempts, and accounted for three touchdowns (two on the ground and one in the air), Winthrop counterpunched effectively, matching the first three Revere scores that brought the contest back to level, 19-19, with 4:01 left in the third period.
At that point, it was anybody’s game and the final 16 minutes proved to be among the most entertaining, unpredictable, and memorable stretches of play between the rivals in their 91-year history.
Llanos gave an early indication of things to come when he accumulated 63 of Revere’s 80 yards on the Patriots’ first possession off the opening kickoff. Llanos ripped off a 31-yard gain on the first play of the game and chunked 13 more on the next, moving the ball from the Revere 20 to the Winthrop 36 in short order. He eventually finished the drive on runs of 14 and five yards to give Revere a 7-0 lead (after a successful PAT by Rayan Riazi) just 2:13 into the contest.
Winthrop opened its first possession after the kickoff on its own 39 — the Vikings enjoyed good field position after all but one kickoff — and drove to the Revere 30. However, on a third-and-16, Patriot Marco Cerbone picked off a Winthrop pass, giving the ball back to the Pats.
But that’s when a combination of penalties, the slick field, and the wind conspired to turn the ball back to the Vikings at the Revere 20. A gain of nine yards on a jet sweep by Jonathan Murphy was nullified by a holding penalty. Patriot ballcarriers then lost their footing on the turf on the next two plays, most notably quarterback Calvin Boudreau, who slipped at the 21 as he dropped back to pass on third down.
The ensuing Revere punt was shanked — it appeared as though the wind moved the ball away from the kicker’s foot when he released it — and the pigskin squibbed out of bounds at the Revere 20 for a net kick of -one yard as the first quarter ended.
Hubert and the Viking offense made the most of the short field, though not without some difficulty. Hubert ran a succession of keepers to bring the ball to the three, where the Vikings faced a third-and-goal.
Hubert dropped back to pass on third down, but Patriot captain Jaryd Benson executed a perfect blitz and sacked Hubert for a six yard loss at the nine.
After a time-out, and with Winthrop now heading into the wicked wind, the Vikings eschewed the field goal and went for it on fourth-and-nine. Hubert tossed a perfect pass to Steve Perullo, who was wide open in the right corner area of the end zone, to cut the deficit to 7-6 (Winthrop’s attempt for a two-point conversion failed) with 8:43 left in the half.
Revere took over after the kickoff and embarked on 62-yard drive, with Llanos accounting for 49 of them (including a one yard TD run), that ate up 6:30 on the clock. The Revere PAT attempt sailed wide, leaving matters at 13-6.
The Winthrop offense got the ball back at its own 20 with just 2:08 left in the half, but after a seven yard gain on first down by Tyler Rockefeller (who had a nice day with 47 yards on nine carries to add to his total of 247 yards for the season), Hubert went around left end on second down, found a seam, and outran the Revere secondary en route to a 73 yard sprint to the Patriot end zone. The Winthrop PAT kick angled wide, leaving matters at 13-12.
However, Hubert’s dash (which elevated Hubert to over 1,000 yards rushing for the season) left plenty of time (1:22 to be precise) for the Revere offense — specifically Llanos — to respond, starting at the Patriots’ 37.
Revere moved the chains to the 49 thanks to a nine yard run on third-and-seven by Adetayo Attitebi. An eight yard pass completion by Boudreau to Murphy and a nice scramble by Boudreau brought the ball to the Winthrop 29 for a first down with 0:32 on the clock.
Llanos then took a pitch to the left and cut back to his right on the counter play, from where he rambled into the end zone. Revere fumbled on the two-point attempt, leaving matters at 19-12 at the intermission.
Winthrop took the opening kickoff of the second half and executed its game plan — grind-it-out, ball-control offense — to perfection, covering 69 yards and using 7:56 of the clock. An assortment of Viking ballcarriers — Ryan Hovermale (who totaled 17 yards on four carries plus an 11 yard reception on the day), Bryan Conceicao (39 yards on five carries plus a 13 yard reception for the morning), and Hubert — took turns battering the Revere defense for short gains, with Rockefeller eventually waltzing in from the eight for the TD.
Sanchez delivered a perfect kick for the PAT and the teams were even-steven at 19-19 with 4:04 to go in the third period.
But that’s when Llanos elevated his performance from the merely mortal to the sublime. With Revere starting its next possession after the kickoff at its own nine yard line (thanks to a penalty for a blind side block called against Llanos on the return), Llanos got the call on five of the next seven Revere plays, accounting for 70 yards, that moved the ball to the Winthrop seven, from where Patriot Lucas Barboza went in to give the Patriots a 26-19 lead (with a successful kick by Riazi) with 0:19 left in the period.
Hubert and Co. went right back to work after the kickoff, moving the ball from their own 37 to the Revere 33, thanks to the downhill running off-tackle by Hubert, Conceicao, and Rockefeller. (It should be noted that Conceicao and Rockefeller also shared Winthrop’s weekly Black Shirt Award for the Vikings’ top defensive players).
The Vikings appeared poised once again to reach the Patriot end zone, but disaster struck in the form of a fumble at the Revere 24 that was recovered by Patriot Zach Furlong.
After a run for three yards by Murphy, Llanos took a handoff from RHS quarterback Calvin Boudreau. Llanos patiently followed his blockers to the right side of the line, found a hole, and accelerated, breaking a few tackles at the first level of defenders, and then outrunning the Winthrop secondary as he cut upfield from right to left to reach the end zone.
The electrifying, 73-yard romp made it 33-19 and provided a separation of two scores between the teams for the first time of the day.
But with 9:21 remaining, there was still plenty of football left to play, and the coaching staffs on both sides were fully aware that Winthrop had erased a 21 point deficit in the final six minutes of its last game to pull out a 36-35 victory.
The Vikings, led by the committee of Hubert, Hovermale, and Rockefeller, moved from their own 37 to the Revere 44, where they faced a fourth-and-one.
However, a penalty for a false start created a fourth-and-six and Hubert was sacked by Patriot captain Mazer Ali (who led Revere with nine tackles and two sacks on the day) for a nine yard loss that gave Revere the ball on downs at the Winthrop 42.
Llanos ran for eight yards on first down and then took the next handoff and bolted 34 yards into the end zone to increase the Revere advantage to a seemingly insurmountable 40-19 with 4:27 to play.
But Winthrop refused to give up. The Vikings used a nice combination of runs and passes, including an 18-yard connection from Hubert to David DiCicco (Winthrop’s top receiver this season with 17 receptions), to move the ball downfield in hurry, with Hubert taking the capper into the end zone from five yards out. The Winthrop drive was accomplished in less than two minutes and drew the Vikings within 40-25 (after an unsuccessful two-point try) with 2:36 to go.
Although a Viking onside kick failed thanks to a sure-handed grab of the bouncing pigskin by the Patriots’ Barbosa, the Winthrop defense rose to the occasion. Viking defenders stuffed two successive Revere running plays for two-yard losses, after which Winthrop called immediate timeouts.
Faced with a third-and-14 at their own 49 with 2:22 remaining — plenty of time for a miracle Viking finish given the ease with which the Winthrop offense had been moving the ball — Llanos was sent back into the game.
Llanos took the handoff, shook off a few would-be tacklers — maintaining his balance as he sidestepped through the Viking defensive front — and then sped 51 yards to the Winthrop end zone — his third TD run in a span of just 7:15 — to increase the Revere advantage to 46-25 with 2:06 on the clock.
However, the Vikings still had one last shot at a victory when Julian Osorio hauled in what ironically was the best kickoff by either team on the day. The high and deep, end-over-end kick was taken in by Osorio one step behind his goal line.
Julian found a seam and then outran the entire Revere team for a 101 yard kickoff return, leaving matters at 46-31 with 1:50 still showing the clock.
However, that would prove to be the Vikings’ last gasp. Another on-side kick was snared adroitly once again by Barbosa. From there, the Patriots were able to run out the clock to ensure the victory.
For Winthrop-Revere football aficionados, it should be noted that the 77 combined points rung up by the Pats and Vikes by far was the most in their 91-year tradition and the 46 points scored by Revere was its highest total ever.
The Revere win marked the fourth straight on the holiday for the Patriots, the first time that Revere has accomplished that feat in series’ history. Revere had won three straight games twice (from 1940-42 and 1972-74), but had never pulled off a quadruple.
Winthrop still leads the series, 57-31-3, thanks to two generations of Viking domination when Winthrop claimed victories in 32 of the 35 games played between the years from 1975-2009.
However, the win gave Revere a 6-4 edge in Turkey Day tilts for the decade from 2010-2019, the first time since the 1960s that the Patriots have won a decade. (However, it should be noted that Revere and Winthrop played two games in each of the 2013 and 2014 seasons when the football playoffs were introduced. Winthrop won both of those non-Thanksgiving Day encounters, so technically the teams were 6-6 in this decade).
The triumph also earned two other firsts for the Revere High football program. The Patriots concluded their season with a 10-1 record, marking the first 10-win season in RHS grid history.
The win also gave Revere its first-ever, undisputed Northeastern Conference South Division championship with a perfect 5-0 record. Lynn Classical was second in the NEC South with a 4-1 mark; Lynn English was third at 3-2; Winthrop was fourth at 2-3 (the Vikings finished at 4-7 overall); Saugus was fifth at 1-4; and Salem was sixth at 0-5.
Llanos set RHS records with his 378 yards and six touchdowns in one game; 2022 yards rushing in one season; and more than 2400 all-purpose yards in one season. He also tied Trey Weathers’ mark with 30 touchdowns for one season, which included two pick-sixes.
“We knew that Llanos would be the best running back we had faced all season,” said WHS head coach Jon Cadigan. “But we went into the game expecting to win and I was very proud that we matched the Revere score-for-score through the end of the third period.
“But execution and turnovers are the keys to success and we had two turnovers to none for them, and that proved to be the difference,” continued Cadigan, whose mostly-junior squad will have many key starters returning in 2020. “We played with toughness throughout the game, as we did all season.
“We’re already looking forward to next year,” added Cadigan, whose team improved by 700 yards of total offense over its 2018 output.
“We expected a tough game from Winthrop and that’s how they played us,” said RHS head coach Lou Cicatelli. “The big turning point was our fumble recovery late in the third period.
“But the game belonged to Joe (Llanos),” Cicatelli added. “We made a few adjustments at the half, but the bottom line is that Joe was the difference. He’s an amazing football player who turned in the kind of performance that I’ve never seen before. He rose to the occasion, as great players do.
“We’ll miss Joe and our senior captains next year, but we have a great group of players returning ,” added Cicatelli. “This has been an amazing season, but we’re confident that we can keep it going in 2020.”