A Comeback for the Ages: Patriots Erase a 17-point Deficit and Beat Peabody to Improve to 5-1

With the scoreboard showing a score of 17-0 in favor of the visitors and 6:50 on the clock in the fourth period, things certainly looked bleak for the Revere High football team and their fans, many of whom already were heading for the exits, as the Patriots prepared to punt away the ball from their own 30 facing a fourth and long situation Friday evening at Harry Della Russo Stadium.

The contest up to that point had belonged to Peabody on both sides of the ball. Although the Revere defense stiffened in the second half, the Patriot offense had  had been unable to get anything going.

But as Yogi Berra famously said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” It’s a maxim that has been the credo of the 2011 Patriots, who had come from behind in three of their four victories prior to the Peabody contest.

“This is a team that never quits,” said RHS head coach Lou Cicatelli. “They never give up, which is the mark of a tough football team.”

Still, it appeared as though resiliency alone would not be enough to carry the day for the Patriots. The football gods would need to intervene if the Pats were to have a shot at raising their record to 5-1, the best start to a season for an RHS football team in 30 years.

And indeed, Dame Fortune entered the fray on that punt, as a Peabody player, instead of playing it safe and letting the ball bounce ‘til dead, decided to pick it up and, after being hit, coughed it up, giving the Pats the ball at the Tanner 45.

A flame always needs its spark and the Patriot offense found it with that turnover. RHS quarterback Joe Ritchie engineered a quick-as-lightning drive, with Edson Cordeiro (who ended up with 80 yards rushing on the day) making some nice runs and Ritchie himself taking the ball into the endzone from 23 yards out for Revere’s first score of the day.

Although the Pats failed on a two point conversion attempt, and though they might not have had a lot of life, they certainly had a pulse with the score now standing at 17-6.

But the ensuing kickoff soon sent everyone’s heart rate soaring. Jeff Simbert, Revere’s place kicker extraordinaire, footed a perfectly-delivered onside kick down the sideline where Kyle Gotham’s good hands gathered in the bouncing pigskin at the Peabody 40.

Ritchie and Co. went right back to work and moments later, Captain Drew Lauria punched the ball in from the two with 3:00 to go. Although the two point conversion try failed again, the Pats had cut the deficit to 17-12 and all of the momentum was on their side.

Once again Simbert lined up his kickoff. Once again everyone knew what was coming. And once again Jeff’s well-placed onsider was recovered by, guess who, Gotham.

“Jeff did a great job and I can’t say enough about Kyle’s hustle and determination,” said Cicatelli. “We work on it in practice and they executed it perfectly, not once, but twice.”

What had seemed impossible just a few minutes earlier suddenly appeared within the realm of probability. But the Pats still had to reach the endzone one more time, a prospect that looked as though it might come up short when Revere faced a fourth and six at the Peabody 20. Indeed, when Ritchie attempted to run a bootleg, but slipped one yard shy of the first down, turning the ball back over to Peabody with less than two minutes showing on the clock, the write-up for this week’s game appeared destined to be one of those, “It was a nice try, but fell short,” stories.

However, Cicatelli had not used any of his team’s timeouts, thus enabling him to stop the clock. Peabody could not take a knee and was forced to try to get a first down, or else face punting the ball away to give Revere one more shot at winning the game. But then the football gods once again smiled even more brightly on the Pats, as the Tanners fumbled the ball away on a dive play up the middle.

The Revere offense, Destiny’s Child if there ever was one on this October night, returned to the field to take the ball at the Peabody 10 yard line. Two plays later, Ritchie fired a bullet to sophomore Tommy Portrait in the back of the endzone, creating a scene of pandemonium on the Revere side of the field. Cordeiro went in for the two point conversion for a 20-17 advantage with just 18 seconds remaining.

“I’ve never been a part of a game like that,” said Cicatelli, who was a lineman with his line coach, Vin Gregorio, on that 1981 RHS team that opened up the season 5-0. “We never gave up and we executed plays when we needed them. Joe Ritchie and the entire team showed a great deal of poise down the stretch.  I’m so proud of every boy on this team and can’t say enough about them.”

For you New England Patriots fans who were treated to the Pats’ last minute win over Dallas on Sunday, that outcome never should have been in doubt, because it is clear by now that the professional Patriots are channeling their Revere namesakes. Bill Belichick’s crew have mirrored every win (and the one loss) of Cicatelli’s team this season, culminating in their twin, last-minute wins this weekend.

The victory was a key one for the Pats, inasmuch as it was their first game against an opponent in the newly reorganized Northeastern Conference. So Revere stands in first place in the standings with a 1-0 mark. They will travel to the Manning Bowl Friday evening to take on Lynn English in a key matchup with first place on the line. Kick off is at 7:00.

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