In many respects, the 2012 edition of the annual Thanksgiving Day game between Winthrop and Revere seemed like the good olâ€™ days that so many fans of a certain age recall about the traditional rivalry between the two teams. The intersection of Broadway and Park Ave. was the scene of pre-game and post-game traffic jams as fans from both sides were drawn to Harry Della Russo Stadium for what was billed as, and turned out to be, an evenly matched affair between the two Turkey Day rivals.
The fans nearly filled the stands at HDR and ringed the fenced perimeter, with a solid chorus of Revere boosters rooting on their Patriots from beginning to end on a warm and sun-drenched day that was perfect for an appetizer of schoolboy football prior to everyoneâ€™s Thanksgiving feast.
However, when the final whistle sounded, the scoreboard told the story of another chapter of what has become the major theme of the series between the ancient foes (whose rivalry dates back nearly 100 years to 1913) which Revere last led in 1976,Â thanks to the Patriots winning three straight games from 1972-74 to move out to what at the time was a 22-19-3 advantage.
But in the ensuing 38 years, Winthrop has come out on top on 33 of those occasions, including Thursdayâ€™s final tale of aÂ 23-6 triumph.
The contest was a much more-evenly played game than the final score might indicate, best evidenced by the first downs statistic, which unofficially showed the Pats with a 13-12 advantage. However, as every football fan knows, penalties and turnovers are the biggest factors in killing drives and such proved to be the case for the Pats, who saw a number of their forays deep into Winthrop territory go for naught.
â€œWe had no trouble moving the ball,â€ said RHS head coach Lou Cicatelli. â€œWe just couldnâ€™t finish our drives and take advantage of our scoring opportunities.â€
As advertised, Winthrop displayed a ball control offense that was nothing spectacular, but proved highly effective. The Vikings took the opening kickoff at its own 46 yard line and marched 54 yards in eight plays, mostly on runs up the middle, the capper being a 27 yard sweep around left end by Jordan Corbett-Frank for an 8-0 Winthrop lead (with the two point conversion).
Revere responded right away, moving from its own 31 to the Winthrop 39 on three quick bursts by Bobby Rose and Tommy Portrait. However, on a second and three, a penalty for illegal procedure moved the Pats back five yards. Revere was unable to regain its momentum and eventually turned the ball back at midfield to Winthrop when Joe Ritchie thought he had an opportunity to make a first down on a fake punt, but the Vikings thwarted his bid.
However, the Revere offense was back in business moments later thanks to a Winthrop fumble at the Revere 26. Patriot running backs Portrait, Rose, and Caleb Silva continued to eat up big chunks of yardage, whether slashing through the heart of the Winthrop defense or getting to the edge on sweeps, bringing the ball to the Winthrop 16 for a second and seven.
However, another penalty, this time for holding, once again deflated the Revere momentum. Two incomplete passes and then a miscommunication between Ritchie (who was in the shotgun) and his snapper, which resulted in a snap that scooted to the Winthrop 36, turned the ball back to Winthrop.
The Vikings embarked on another scoring voyage, moving the 64 yards to paydirt in nine plays. Another two point PAT made it a 16-0 affair with 5:35 to play in the half.
However, as the Patriots have done so many times this season, they regrouped and, remaining undaunted, rallied for a big drive of their own. Starting at his own 31, Ritchie expertly directed the Patriot attack. Kyle Gotham was the big ground gainer in the drive and also made the key play with a sure-handed catch on a bullet pass over the middle from Ritchie on a third and seven from the Revere 34 that brought the ball to midfield for a first down.
This drive also appeared to have stalled out, but a penalty against Winthrop (for a late hit out of bounds) on a fourth down gave the Pats a first down at the Winthrop10 with just 25 seconds on the clock. After an incomplete pass on first down, Ritchie ran to the Winthrop one on a keeper on which Joe got into the end zone, but the ball was left behind at the one yard line, with the refs ruling that he was down before he lost the pigskin.
A sneak attempt by Ritchie moved the ball to the six inch line, from where Rose went around end for the TD as the half ended (Cicatelli had kept two timeouts which proved invaluable in the waning seconds), leaving matters at 16-6 at the intermission (Revere came up short on the two point conversion).
With the momentum on their side as the teams came out for the second half, the Patriot offense picked up where they had left upon taking the opening kickoff. Three quick first downs, highlighted by a 15 yard jaunt by Portrait with some fancy dancing in the open field that left Winthrop defenders flatfooted, quickly moved the ball to the Winthrop 20, where the Pats faced a second and five.
However, a three yard loss, an incomplete pass, and finally a fumble ended what would prove to be Revereâ€™s best hope for getting back into the game.
The teams traded punts on the next two possessions (the Pats once again got into Winthrop territory to the Viking 40, but another bad snap set Revere back 16 yards), leaving Winthrop at its own 27 at the start of the final quarter. The Vikings then went on what would prove to be a death march for the Patriots, eating up 73 yards and more than six minutes on the clock to make it a 23-6 game with 4:57 to go.
Revere gave it a final shot, getting to the Winthrop 40 on a 17 yard burst by Portrait. But with time running out and Revere needing some points in a hurry, the Pats needed to turn to the air, which ended the final Revere offensive series of the 2012 season with some incompleteÂ passes.
â€œIt obviously was not the outcome we wanted, but Iâ€™m very proud of this team and what we accomplished this year,â€ said Cicatelli of his warriors, who were in the thick of the fight for the title in the Cape Ann League/Northeastern Conference Division 1 and who finished at 5-5 overall on the season in their bid to become the first RHS grid team with a winning record since 1981.
Indicative of Revereâ€™s fine season is that four Patriots, Ritchie, Portrait, Gotham, and two-way lineman Omar Morales, were named to the CAL/NEC all star team.