In many respects, the 2012 edition of the annual Thanksgiving Day game at Harry Della Russo Stadium between Winthrop and Revere seemed like the good olâ€™ days that so many fans of a certain age, who recall when the Revere gridiron was known as Paul Revere Stadium, rememberÂ with fondness about the traditional rivalry between the two teams.
The intersection of Broadway and Park Ave. in Revere was the scene of pre-game and post-game traffic jams as fans from both sides streamed toward the field for what was billed as, and turned out to be, a fairly evenly-matched affair between the two Turkey Day rivals.
The crowd nearly filled the stands at HDR and ringed the fenced perimeter, with choruses of Revere and Winthrop boosters, led by the sizeable and excellent cheerleading squads from both schools,Â rooting on their heroes from beginning to end on a warm, sun-drenched morning that was a perfect appetizer of schoolboy football prior to everyoneâ€™s Thanksgiving Day feast.
Moreover, the game had major significance for both teams beyond the usual holiday bragging rights. Revere, at 5-4, was looking to complete its first winning season since 1981. Winthrop, at 5-5, was seeking to add another winning year to its illustrious football resume.
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). Revere last held the advantage over Winthrop 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 by a commanding 33 times,Â 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 Revere 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 Patriots, who saw a number of their forays deep into Winthrop territory go for naught.
â€œWe were able to move the ball,â€ said RHS head coach Lou Cicatelli. â€œWe just couldnâ€™t finish our drives and take advantage of our scoring opportunities and the Winthrop defense played well when it had to.â€
By contrast, the Vikings made the most of most of their scoring opportunities. Coach Sean Driscollâ€™s Winthrop squad, as expected, displayed a ball control offense that pounded away through the heart of the overmatched Revere defense. Then, after the Vikings had softened up the Revere middle like a boxer landing body blows, they would land a left hook with a sweep or go over the top of the Revere defense that would catch the Patriots off-guard and lead to the decisive blow for a touchdown.
Winthrop set the tone for the day from the opening kickoff. Starting at their own 46 yard line, the Vikings, led by the power running of Bo Diaz and Dave Gallo, racked up two first downs en route to moving the ball to the Revere 27. WHS quarterback Dylan Driscoll, on a second and six, then pitched left to Jordan Corbett-Frank. Jordan got to the edge and was gone in a cloud of dust, covering the 27 yards untouched on a perfectly-executed sweep.
The Vikings then turned a bit of trickery on the PAT to their advantage, causing a Revere offsides, that moved the ball half the distance to the one and one-half yard line. From there, Driscoll (the coach) brought in his regular offensive unit, with Driscoll (the quarterback) punching it in for an 8-0 Winthrop lead with 7:30 to go in the first period.
Revere responded right away, moving from its own 31 to the Winthrop 39 on three quick bursts by Patriots 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 Revere punter (and quarterback) Joe Ritchie thought he had an opportunity to make a first down on a fake punt, but the Vikings thwarted his bid.
Winthrop went on the move again, but a fumble at the Revere 26 gave the ball back to the Pats. Hard-running Revere backs Portrait, Rose, and Caleb Silva went on the attack, eating up big chunks of yardage and racking up three first downs to move the ball to the Winthrop 16.
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 center, which resulted in a snap that scooted to the Winthrop 36, turned the ball back to Winthrop as the second period got underway.
The Vikings then embarked on another scoring voyage, moving the 64 yards to paydirt in nine plays. The trio of Reuben Powell, Corbett-Frank, and Gallo did most of the damage on the ground on five successive running plays.Â But then Driscoll neatly faked a hand-off and, with the play-action catching the Revere secondary completely flat-footed, found a wide open David Caponer down the middle of the field that brought the ball from the Revere 44 to the Revere 11.
Three plays later, Driscoll ran into the endzone on a keeper. Another two point conversion, this time on a pass from Dylan D. to David C., made it 16-0 in favor of Winthrop with 5:35 to go in the half.
However, Revere regrouped and launched a big drive of their own starting at their own 31.
The Patriots eventually got into the end zone on the final play of the half (helped by a roughing penalty on fourth down that kept the drive alive and then a non-call of a fumble at the Winthrop one), leaving matters at 16-6 at the intermission.(The Revere two point PAT attempt fell short).
Revere seemed poised to maintain its momentum as the teams came out of the locker room at the start of the second half. The Patriots took the opening kickoff and got as far as the Winthrop 20, where they faced a second and five. However, the Winthrop defense responded to the challenge, stuffing the next Revere play for 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 (Revere 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 their opponents, eating up 73 yards and more than six minutes on the clock to make it a 23-6 game with 4:57 to go.
Corbett-Frank and Diaz once again did most of the lugging as Winthrop pounded away at the weary Revereites. Gallo the got the call at the Revere 25 on a second and 14 and burst through the middle, shaking off seemingly a half dozen would-be Patriot tacklers, to put the game on ice.
Revere made one last, final gasp to keep its hopes alive, but the Winthrop secondary forced the ball back to Winthrop on downs at the Viking 39. Driscoll and Company marched to the shadow of the goal posts, but let the time run out, content with the 23-6 finale.
Driscoll credits offensive line as key to victory
Offensive linemen donâ€™t win Heisman Trophies but Winthropâ€™s group certainly won – or should we say earned â€“ the commendation of head coach Sean Driscoll for their combined efforts in the big 23-6 win over Revere on Thanksgiving.
â€œWe were hoping to control the line of scrimmage and we did that against Revere,â€ said Driscoll. â€œOur skill guys did a nice job carrying the ball and that was the difference. We threw only one pass in the whole game, a 48-yard completion, but I was very happy with the way we played up front.â€
Driscoll praised offensive linemen Dan Feeley, Tom Lund, Luke Hodgkins, Eric Castro, Ben Spinazzola, and James Baxter for setting the foundation to victory.
â€œThey all played great games,â€ said Driscoll.
Tight ends Dave Capone and Jake McKinnon also provided stellar blocking on each side of the offensive line.
Dave Gallo, Bo Diaz, and Jordan Corbett benefited from the forceful blocking up front, finding openings in the beleagured Revere defense. Ruben Powell started in strong fashion before sustaining a knee injury in his final performance for the Vikings.
â€œIt was a good way to end the year,â€ said Driscoll, whose Vikings finished with a 6-5 record while denying Revere (5-5) a winning campaign. â€œWinning the last three games really sets a tone for us going into next year. We played well later in the season. We regrouped after the Amesbury loss and seemed to play a lot better after that.â€
Winthrop High seniors pass on the torch in style
The Winthrop Vikings went on quite the tear to finish off their 2012 campaign. The three game win streak to end the season featured a trouncing of Triton, a satisfying Newburyport knockout, and a turkey day lambaste of rival Revere. The crusade led to a winning season for the Vikes who finished up at 6-5.
It was a fitting scenario that the final three game march began just as the senior night festivities concluded back on the eve of November 2nd, for it was the seniors who were especially adamant about making sure they finished with a winning season. â€œGoing into the Triton game we had one goal, just end up 6-5,â€ said senior co-captain Jake
McKinnon. Junior lineman James Baxter added, â€œThey (the seniors) all said they want to win the last three games, and the underclassmen wanted to help out as much as we could.â€ The mission, from the moment after the players passed out flowers to their parents during that senior shindig, was to bury their next three opponents.
â€œDefinitely,â€ agreed senior co-captain Dave Gallo. â€œGoing into the Triton game we were focused on a winning season, beating Revere. We wanted to accomplish those goals and end on a happy note.â€ When asked if the seniors relayed these goals to the underclassmen in some sort of Knute Rockne speech, Gallo admitted no coaxing was needed. Instead he concurred with Baxterâ€™s assessment about the returning players wanting to help out.
â€œThey understood. They wanted it just as bad. They knew it and took it upon themselves.â€ He also explained that coach Driscoll ironed all that out with the underclassmen anyway. Senior co-captain Ruben Powell expanded on that latter sentiment, â€œCoach Driscoll told them nobody wants to be part of a losing class. Nobody wants to lose on Thanksgiving.â€
So while the head coach took on the responsibilities of emphasizing
the importance of finishing off 2012 strong, the seniors directed
their experience driven advice towards the 2013 campaign. Like the parents they gathered with on Miller Field back on that senior night, the upperclassmen were, in terms of passing the torch onto the boys of Classes 2014, 2015, and 2016, full of guidance.
Most of the boys interviewed agreed that Powell and Bo Diaz were probably the most motivational, powerful speakers of this senior group. And while Diaz, according to Gallo, could â€œdeliver an unbelievable speech,â€ it was Powell who, when prompted, sounded more paternal in his councel for 2013 when he suggested to next yearâ€™s squad,
â€œFocus each time on the one game ahead …. and do good at your school work.â€
Powell felt strongest about team leadership though, and the importance of finding those who are going to step up early. â€œFind someone who is going to lead. Donâ€™t wait too long. You donâ€™t want to go into the first couple of games without leadership already in place.â€ He feels Curtis Lockett and Dylan Driscoll are a couple of the guys who could take those reigns.
Driscoll, the young sophomore quarterback, sounds ready as he feels much more confident now than he did early on. â€œAt the beginning I was nervous, unsure. The Triton game was confidence building. I could see more open receivers. From then it got a little easier.â€ Driscoll acknowledged senior, Michael Ferrino as a natural leader, but took in a lot of what Powell was saying to him as well. â€œThey all were saying keep calm. Be you! Go do your thing! But Ruben told me donâ€™t get mad at yourself. Weâ€™re proud of you.â€
Much of the consultation comes during a â€œmoving on ceremonyâ€ at the last practice with pads during the week before the Revere game. Gallo declared this was â€œeasily the favorite team I ever played on. I loved these guys.â€ During this ceremony he stressed â€œmaturity, good citizenship, and keeping your grades up.â€ Â¬â€ When asked as the senior fullback if had given any running back advice to the returningbackfield members, he quipped, â€œNot really. Most of them have been running there longer than me. My advice were more about the maturity.â€
When prompted on what heâ€™d like to impart to the 2013 version of the Vikings, McKinnon chimed â€œPretty much just enjoy it. It goes by quick. Donâ€™t take it for granted and enjoy it while it lasts.â€ He feels theyâ€™ll be just fine â€œDylan Driscoll will be more experienced. Jordan Corbett-Frank is pretty good. Reese Taurransky will have big spots, big roles.Tyler Gillis will be back.â€ Baxter affirmed, â€œAs long as we work hard in the off-season, weâ€™ll have a pretty successful season next year.â€
All agreed, achieving the goal that started back on that senior night of taking the last three games and improving to an overall winning season was a great way to go out. It was also certainly a nice foundation for next yearâ€™s squad to build off of.
Four Vikings are on League All-Star Team
Four members of the Winthrop High School football team have been selected to the 2012 Northeastern Conference/Cape Ann League All-Star team.
Fullback Dave Gallo, offensive lineman Dan Feeley, outside linebacker Jordan Corbett-Frank and receiver/tight end Dave Capone received the votes of the leagueâ€™s coaches at the All-Star selection meeting. Feeley and Corbett-Frank were named All-Stars for the second year in a row.
Attaining Honorable Mention recognition were Ruben Powell, Tom Lund, and Mike Ferrino.
The Rotary Club will present the Irving Alexander Trophy to a Winthrop High senior at a luncheon at the Winthrop Arms. Considered one of the athletic programâ€™s most prestigious awards, the Alexander Trophy is presented to the graduating player who has given the most to Winthrop football during his career in the program. The Rotary Club does a great job rolling out the red carper for the recipient of the award and his family. Superintendent of Schools John Macero and Principal Gail Conlon add to the prestige of the occasion with their presence while head coach Sean Driscoll and the award recipient deliver speeches at the luncheon.
â€œItâ€™s one of the biggest athletic awards in town,â€ said Driscoll.