The Winthrop High football team put together what ranks as the greatest comeback in the annals of the Viking gridiron program, scoring 22 points in the final six minutes of play, to earn a stunning 36-35 victory over the Greater Lowell Tech Gryphons last Friday evening at Miller Field.
“Only a team that refuses to give up wins a game like that,” said WHS head coach Jon Cadigan of his squad’s historic triumph. “But that’s why you play four quarters of football.”
Up until those fateful, final six minutes, the Vikings had performed unevenly, particularly during a stretch of the third period that Cadigan bluntly termed as “the worst quarter of football that we had played in a long time.”
Turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles, had bedeviled Winthrop from the start of the contest. Greater Lowell grabbed a 6-0 lead in the opening period thanks to a 60 yard return of a fumble on Winthrop’s opening possession of the game.
The Vikings bounced back with a pair of long scoring drives, capped by runs of four and three yards by Tyler Rockefeller, in each of the first and second periods to move ahead, 14-6, just before the end of the half.
However, a screen pass on third-and-long just before the end of the half accounted for an 81 yard touchdown play for the Gryphons to leave matters at 14-13 as the teams headed into the locker room.
Things then went from bad to worse for Winthrop after the intermission. A fumble and an interception on the Vikings’ first two possessions of the third period gave Greater Lowell short fields that produced two touchdowns. When the Gryphons added a third score before the end of the quarter to move out to a seemingly insurmountable 35-14 advantage, the Winthrop cause looked bleak, to say the least.
But as much as the third period may have been Winthrop’s roughest stretch of the year, the fourth quarter would prove to be the Vikings’ most amazing of this — or any other — season.
The Winthrop offense methodically drove the length of the field to start the fourth period to score on a nine yard run by Bobby Hubert to slice the lead to 35-21.
The Winthrop defense then rose to the occasion, forcing a quick three-and-out, to give the ball back to the Viking offense at midfield.
With sophomore quarterback Mikey Chaves efficiently directing the Winthrop attack, the Vikings moved the ball flawlessly downfield, capped by a two-yard run on fourth-and-goal by Hubert, to draw within 35-28 with three minutes remaining.
The Winthrop defense once again stuffed Greater Lowell for another three-and-out. With the visitors clearly feeling the pressure, a muffed punt attempt set up the Vikings at the Gryphon 20 with just 1:20 to play.
Winthrop’s momentum by now had become an unstoppable force. The Vikings swiftly moved to the one yard line, from where Chaves snuck in for the score to make it 35-34 with 20 seconds left on the clock.
That left Cadigan with the decision of the game: Kick the PAT — Viking kicker Juan Sanchez had been a perfect four-for-four to that point — to send the game into overtime, or go for two and the win.
Cadigan chose the latter. “I felt that we had Greater Lowell on their heels,” Cadigan said afterwards. “If you have confidence in your team, then you have to show that you believe in them and go for the win in a situation like that.”
Chaves took the snap, faked a handoff to Hubert, and tossed a short pass to a wide-open Cam Conway in the end zone to complete the comeback for the ages.
The final stats belied the scoreboard’s reflection of a one-point Winthrop victory. The Vikings racked up 349 yards of total offense, 239 of them on the ground, and accumulated 19 first downs. However, the four turnovers had proven nearly fatal to the Winthrop offensive performance.
Hubert had another powerful game, rushing for 136 yards on 35 carries. Bobby also completed two-of-three passes for 28 yards when he assumed the role of quarterback and received the Black Shirt Award for top defensive performance, which included an interception of a Gryphon pass in the game’s waning moments to seal the victory.
Chris Ferrara ran for 51 yards on nine attempts and Rockefeller contributed 42 yards on 10 rushes.
Chaves connected on six-of-12 of his pass attempts for 82 yards and Hubert was two-for-three for 28 yards. David DiCicco grabbed three aerials for 41 yards and Rockefeller snared three passes for 35 yards. Conway also had a catch for 17 yards to go with his two-point reception.
“It’s been nice to have Cam back,” said Cadigan of his rangy tight end, who had missed most of the season after breaking his hand in the pre-season. “He’s a tall kid who gives us a nice weapon on offense.”
The victory improved the Vikings to 4-6, but more importantly, it established a degree of confidence in themselves as they head into the annual Thanksgiving Day game with Revere.
“This group has played hard and has never quit all year,” said Cadigan. “We’ve lost some close games this season, so it was nice finally to win one for a change, especially against a strong opponent such as Greater Lowell, which was the number two seed in the Division 6 playoffs and came into the game with a 7-2 record.”
Cadigan and his crew now will set their sights on Revere, which stands at 9-1, for the annual Turkey Day encounter. That contest, which promises to be a hard-fought battle, is set for 10 a.m. at Miller Field next Thursday.