Vikings and Patriots Ready to Tangle on Thanksgiving

The Revere High Patriots and the Winthrop High Vikings will take to the field  Thursday morning on Thanksgiving Day for the 91st renewal of their football rivalry.

The opening kick-off is set for 10 a.m. at Miller Field in Winthrop.

Vikings Football Captains Patrick Teixeira (#77) and Andre Ocampo (#78).

Beyond the usual bragging rights and the claim to the ownership for the next year of the Beachcomber Trophy, there is a lot at stake for both teams, both in terms of the current season and their place in their respective school’s gridiron annals.

Series History

“Toss out the records,” is a well-worn cliche for rivalry games, but it has proven to be a truism throughout the years for the Winthrop-Revere Turkey Day encounters.

The schools initiated their rivalry in 1913, but took “time-outs” from competition for two periods, from 1928-32 and 1947-58, when melees at the conclusion of the 1927 and 1945 contests caused school officials to sever relations.

Although Winthrop holds an overall lead in the series of 57-30-3, upsets and wild endings have been the rule rather than the exception for many of the holiday morning battles between the schools, especially in the past decade.

The long period of Winthrop Turkey Day domination, in which the Vikings claimed  victories in 32 of the 35 games played between the years from 1975-2009, clearly has come to an end.

Revere has captured the last three games in a row — all of which have been tight, hard-fought battles (14-7, 17-14, and 18-6) — to attain a winning skein achieved only twice before by previous Patriot teams (the other two streaks occurred in 1940-42 and 1972-74). Revere never has won four in a row and the 2019 Patriots are well-aware that they have a chance to write themselves into the record books.

Revere also has won 5-of-the-9 Thanksgiving Day contests in this decade. If they make it 6-of-10 tomorrow, it would mark the first time since the 1960s that the Patriots enjoyed a winning decade when Revere took 6-of-9 holiday contests from 1960-69. (There was no game in 1963 out of respect for the national tragedy of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy the previous week.)

Long-time Winthrop and Revere fans will recall those epic battles in the 1960s that featured legendary football players on both sides, most notably the DelGaizo twins on the Patriot side and Tank Adamson and Ron Miles for the Vikings.

Needless to say, the 2019 Patriots are savoring the opportunity to create Revere High football history — and similarly, the Vikings are just as determined to halt the Patriot winning streak at three.

This Season

Also at stake for the Revere side is the chance to attain 10 wins for the first time in Revere gridiron annals. If the Patriots are successful on Thanksgiving, they will have eclipsed the 9-1 record achieved by the 1973 Revere squad that played in the program’s only Super Bowl appearance (a loss to Brockton).

In addition, a victory by Revere will give the Patriots an outright championship of the South Division of the Northeastern Conference, the first-ever such title for a Revere football squad. A loss will leave the Patriots sharing the NEC South crown with either Lynn English or Lynn Classical, who are meeting each other on the holiday.

For the Vikings, there is more at stake than merely playing the spoiler role. Winthrop has won its last two games in a row en route to compiling a 4-6 season record. A victory on the holiday not only will keep the Vikings’ winning streak going, but will end the 2019 campaign on a positive note for a junior-laden team that will create momentum that will carry over into 2020. 

Game Analysis

On paper, Revere rates as the clear favorite. The Patriots have featured a powerful and dynamic offense this season that has steamrollered their opponents to score an average of 35 points per game en route to compiling a 9-1 record.

Revere running back Joe Llanos has proven to be a once-in-a-generation football player who is all but certain to be named the Player of the Year in the NEC. He rushed for more than 1500 yards and scored 20 touchdowns on the season — a feat all the more impressive considering that he rarely was used for large periods of time in many games because Revere had such large leads on their opponents.

Joe ran for 241 yards in Revere’s victory over Wayland in the semifinal round of the Division 4 North state playoffs.

On defense he is a sure tackler in the open field and a game-changer in the defensive backfield, from where he has made an interception in almost every game — including the Wayland contest — and has run back two pick-sixes.

Llanos also is a threat on special teams, having returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season.

Llanos has a strong supporting cast at the skill positions: X-back and senior captain Jonathan Murphy and a trio of speedy tailback/flankers in captain Lucas Barbosa, Bill Ginepra, and captain Zack Furlong.

Although Revere primarily is a run-oriented team, quarterback Calvin Boudreau presents a big threat to opponents in the passing game. Boudreau turned in an outstanding job as the Patriot signal-caller after missing most of 2018 because of an injury. Calvin completed about 60 percent of his passes in 2019 for more than 800 yards and nine TDs this season.

On defense, the Patriots were stout all season, particularly in forcing turnovers. Revere’s defensive line, anchored by captain Mazer Ali, Augusto Goncalves, and Alaa Attoui, has been dominant throughout 2019. The RHS linebacking crew, led by senior captain Jaryd Benson and Jon Tran, also has been solid.

Revere additionally has been formidable in the special teams department. Llanos and Ginepra both have run back two kickoffs for touchdowns. When opponents kicked away from Llanos, Ginepra was there to gobble up the ball and speed to the other end of the field.

Place-kicker Rayan Riazi is one of the best in the area. The junior has delivered some key field goals from more than 30 yards out this season, as he also did in 2018, that were game-deciders.

In short, Revere is a team that has speed, skill, and confidence that will prove to be a formidable foe for their Viking opponents.

However, Winthrop too, figures to provide fierce competition for their Patriot counterparts. The Vikings’ answer to Llanos is workhorse Bobby Hubert, a junior who lines up either as a halfback or as a quarterback from which he poses a true double-threat to his opponents.

Hubert has racked up some impressive numbers on the season, including a 136 yard, two-touchdown rushing effort in Winthrop’s incredible, come-from-behind, 36-35 victory last week over Greater Lowell — which was the second-seeded team in the D-6 North Sectional — in which the Vikings overcame a 35-14 deficit in the final six minutes by scoring three touchdowns and adding a two-point conversion for the game-winning points.

Sophomore Mikey Chaves has stepped up nicely since assuming the principal quarterbacking role mid-season and has been improving and gaining confidence with every game. Juniors Tyler Rockefeller and Chris Ferrara share the load with Hubert in the running department, while Chaves has an assortment of fine receivers in Cam Conway (who missed most of the season with a broken hand), David DiCicco, Rockefeller, and Hubert.

The Winthrop offensive line, led by captains Pat Teixiera and Andre Ocampo, has been a force all season, allowing the Vikings’ ground game to move the chains against every opponent.

The Vikings also feature a fine kicker in Juan Sanchez, who was 4-for-4 on PAT attempts in the big win against Greater Lowell. If the occasion calls for it, Juan gives Winthrop a weapon in the field goal game.

A big plus for the Vikings will be the return to the lineup of Bryan Conceicao, their top, all-around player, who missed the past two games after being injured in the Hamilton-Wenham game. Bryan is an outstanding defender — one of the best in the NEC — and brings another added dimension to the WHS offensive attack.

Although Revere holds an edge in the comparative record against the teams’ common opponents in the NEC South (4-0 for Revere vs. 2-2 for Winthrop), the Vikings played a tougher cross-over schedule with NEC North rivals. Only one of Revere’s North foes, Marblehead, reached the state playoffs, whereas all three of Winthrop’s North opponents, Beverly, Swampscott, and Danvers, qualified for the playoffs.

Most notably, the Vikings dropped a heartbreaking, 14-13 decision to Danvers, which went 7-0 in the regular season and was the top seed in the D-3 North Sectional.

Had the Vikings successfully completed a two-point conversion in that contest, not only would they have knocked off the undefeated Falcons, but they also would have qualified for the state playoffs themselves.

X-Factors

The coaching staffs and players on both sides have watched hours of film in anticipation of the big game. They have broken down their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses and have game-planned their respective strategies. With the extra half-week of practice, both sides no doubt will devise a few extra plays that their rivals will not be able to anticipate.

For the most part, the “known knowns” are apparent to both sides.

But there always are the “known-unknowns” that often can determine the outcome of a football game beyond the Xs and Os.

In terms of the game-day conditions, the weatherman is forecasting a dry morning and temperatures in the mid-40s (a welcome contrast to the past three seasons that were played in sub-freezing conditions), but there will be a brisk (more than 20 m.p.h.) northwest wind that is certain to limit the aerial attack of both teams and that could make the ball do funny things, especially in the kicking game and punts in particular.

In addition, turnovers, penalties, and lucky breaks (fans on both sides will recall Winthrop’s winning touchdown in 2007 as time expired when the end line in the end zone had been washed away on Miller’s muddy field) all can play a major role in the outcome — and they usually do.

Finally, don’t discount the effect of the sheer emotion shared by all of the student-athletes, many of whom will be playing in their final high school football game before a large crowd of their friends and family members.

Coaches’ Comments

Both of the head coaches, Revere’s Lou Cicatelli and Winthrop’s Jon Cadigan, are alumni of their respective schools’ football programs and both have a deep appreciation of the intense rivalry that makes the morning of Thanksgiving Day every year a momentous occasion for players and fans alike.

“Even though we’re coming off a tough loss to Melrose (in the Division 4 North championship game), the team is sky-high and looking forward to this game,” said Cicatelli, who played for Revere in the early 1980s and who has guided the resurgence of the RHS football program.  “The Winthrop game is like our Super Bowl at this point and we have a chance to make history if we can win it.

“Winthrop is a much better team than their record would indicate,” Cicatelli added. “They had a tough loss against Danvers, one of the top teams in the state. They play very smart and they are well-coached. The Thanksgiving Day game always is a tough battle and we are expecting another one this year.”

“We know we’ll be facing a big challenge. Revere is 9-1 for a reason,” said Cadigan, who graduated from WHS in 2001. “But we’ve been having an outstanding week of practice and the team is ready for the big game. We’re excited to face them on Thanksgiving Day.

“It may be a cliche, but the team that executes better, and avoids penalties and turnovers, will win the game,” Cadigan noted.

Revere in 2019

(9-1 record)

Revere 38-Gloucester 8

Revere 24-Peabody 0

Revere 46-Classical 23

Revere 40-Saugus 13

Revere 32-English 30

Revere 32-Marblehead 27

Revere 49-Salem 0

PLAYOFFS

Revere 42-Dracut 6

Revere 42-Wayland 35

Melrose 42-Revere 7

Winthrop in 2019

(4-6 record)

Beverly 21-Winthrop 6

Winthrop 23-Saugus 6

Danvers 14-Winthrop 13

Classical 20-Winthrop 10

Winthrop 35-Salem 18

English 48-Winthrop 20

Ham-Wenham 35-Winthrop 7

Winthrop 34-Arlington Cath. 20

Winthrop 36-Gr. Lowell 35

Cicatelli named MA Coach of the Year

The post-season accolades for the Revere High football team already have begun with the announcement that veteran RHS head coach Lou Cicatelli has been named the Massachusetts Coach of the Year by the Mass. Referees Association.

“I’m deeply honored and humbled by this award,” said Cicatelli, who has been at the helm of the Patriot football program for 17 years. “Any head coach is only as  good as his staff and his players. My success is their success and this award reflects their hard work and effort.”

Cicatelli has guided the Revere football program to its most successful string of seasons in more than two generations (since the glory days of the first half of the 1970s when Revere played in the second-ever high school Super Bowl), including four appearances in the state football playoffs and the first-ever victories in the post-season.

The 2019 campaign rates as the best since the the 1973 Super Bowl team and with a victory on Thanksgiving against archrival Winthrop, will mark the first-ever 10-win season in RHS football history.

Cicatelli was slated to receive his prestigious award this past Monday evening.

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