When the Revere High football team takes to the glistening turf field at Harry Della Russo Stadium at 10 a.m. on what promises to be a sunny, dry — and chilly — Thanksgiving Day morning, coach Lou Cicatelli and his Patriots will be seeking to go where few Revere grid teams have gone before: Beating archrival Winthrop for a third straight year on the holiday.
That feat has been accomplished by Revere only three times in the rivalry between the two schools that dates back to 1913: 1940-42, 1966-68, and 1972-74.
However, regardless of whether the 2018 team follows the lead of the 2016 and 2017 Patriots and etches its name into the all-time annals of Revere-Winthrop football history, this already has been a remarkable season for coach Cicatelli and his crew, who arguably have put together the football program’s most successful season since the fabled teams of the Super Bowl-era of the early 1970s.
After beginning the 2018 campaign with two losses to Gloucester and Marblehead, the Patriots won four of their next five games, falling only to a powerhouse Swampscott team.
Revere’s 4-3 record qualified the Patriots for the MIAA playoff championship in Division 4 North. Revere defeated third-seeded No. Reading (the Patriots were seeded sixth) in the quarterfinals for the RHS football program’s first-ever post-season triumph.
After losing to eventual North Sectional champion Gloucester in the semifinals, Revere then defeated Burlington, the fourth-seed in the D-4 North, in the MIAA tournament consolation round.
So entering the game with Winthrop, Revere, at 6-4, already is assured of finishing over-.500. A victory on Turkey Day would boost the Patriots to a 7-4 record, one of the best in Revere High football history.
Given that Revere’s four losses this season have come against three teams, Marblehead, Swampscott, and Gloucester (twice), which had a combined regular-season record of 19-2 (with Swampscott and Gloucester both advancing to the state semifinals), a case could be made that this is the best Revere team since the 1973 Super Bowl squad.
But standing in the way of the Patriots’ path to glory is their traditional nemesis, Winthrop.
Revere and Winthrop had two common opponents this season with similar results. Both defeated Medford (Winthrop by a score of 28-20, Revere by a score of 27-21) and both lost to Swampscott (Winthrop, 40-6, Revere, 27-7).
However, based on the overall strength of schedule, Revere would appear to be the favorite. The Vikings stand at 5-5 after winning their last three games, but that string of victories came against opponents who, similar to Winthrop, failed to qualify for the playoffs and are of a decidedly-inferior quality compared to Revere’s last three foes.
While the Patriots were playing three playoff teams (No. Reading, Gloucester, and Burlington) and winning two of those contests, the Vikings earned victories against Shawsheen Tech, Essex Tech, and Arlington Catholic, which had a combined record of 7-14 during the regular season.
When you dig deeper into the teams’ schedule, Revere also appears to have played better against once-removed opponents. The Patriots upset highly-touted Lynn Classical, 19-16, while Classical routed Salem, 36-0, and Salem in turn defeated Winthrop, 26-14.
But as every long-time Revere fan knows all too well, you can toss out the pre-game records when it comes to prognosticating the victor of a Revere-Winthrop encounter on Thanksgiving.
For both teams, the Turkey Day battle represents a second season. No matter how well or how poorly they may have done for the previous 10 games, a victory — or a loss — on the holiday erases all that went before it for both Revere and Winthrop.
In addition, both the Patriots and the Vikings have a lot at stake coming into the battle. As noted, the Patriots have a chance to make their case as one of the best teams in Revere High football history if they can finish at 7-4.
For 5-5 Winthrop, a winning season is on the line under first-year head coach Jonathan Cadigan, who had been an assistant coach for the Vikings for the previous 16 years.
As for the game itself, Revere fans can look to senior captains Darius McNeil and Frank Sims (Devin Matthias and Zack Carifeo are the other senior captains) leading the way on offense and defense respectively.
Darius is a hard-charging ballcarrier who pounds away at an opponent’s defense between the tackles. He has rushed for 1177 yards and has scored eight touchdowns, as well as a two-point attempt.
Scatback Lucas Barbosa also has played a big role in the RHS attack, rushing for 610 yards and scoring five TDs. However, Lucas pulled a hamstring three weeks ago and his status for Thursday is day-to-day.
If Revere needs to turn to the air, quarterback Jonathan Murphy has been successful this season. Jonathan has accumulated 392 combined yards passing and rushing and has accounted for 10 touchdowns.
Murphy’s favorite target has been speedy receiver Eric Bua, who has 15 receptions for 260 yards and a pair of TDs.
Defensively, Sims is the leader of the pack, with Carifeo, Matthias, and Zack Furlong his principal accomplices.
If the outcome of the contest comes down to the closing minutes, the Patriots have proven themselves to be battle-tested, thanks to scintillating victories over Lynn Classical and Peabody earlier this season.
In addition, as fans may recall from last year’s dramatic win over Winthrop — when Badr Haou’s field goal in the final minute provided Revere with the margin of victory — the Patriots once again will have an ace up their sleeve in place-kicker Rayan Riazi, a sophomore whose foot has proven the difference in three of the RHS wins this season.
Rayan has made 11-of-18 PATs (most of the misses were muffs on the snap) and he remarkably has connected on all five of his field goal attempts, almost all from long distance, of 36, 32, 46, 25, and 44 yards.
But, as always is the case in the game of football, especially in big games, turnovers, penalties, and emotions (as well as controversial calls by the refs) all-too-often can play a huge role in the final tally on the scoreboard.
The weather also could be a factor. Although the skies will be clear, the temperature will be in the low 20s with a northwest wind of 20 m.p.h., which not only will affect the passing game, but will make for a wind chill factor that could be in the low teens.
“It should be a great game,” said Cicatelli, who has seen his share of fierce confrontations with the Vikings, both when he was a player for RHS in the early 1980s and as the head coach for the past 16 seasons. “We’ve had a good week of practice and the team has been very focused.
“Both teams always are up for this game,” added the veteran RHS mentor. “There is a big crowd and for the seniors, this is their last game. Everyone wants to end their high school career on a winning note in front of their friends and family.”
After the Pep Rally at the high school Wednesday afternoon, there will be a team dinner Wednesday evening at which Cicatelli invites all of his players to offer their perspective on the season.
Mayor Brian Arrigo will host a pre-game breakfast for the team Thursday morning at 7:00 at the high school.