40 Years Ago This Week: The WHS Football Team Won the D-2 Super Bowl

It was 40 years ago this week that coach Bob DeFelice’s Winthrop High football team capped an unbeaten season with a 14-0 triumph over Tewksbury at B.C.’s Alumni Stadium before a crowd of 5600 fans on a chilly Saturday morning to win the 1981 Division 2 Super Bowl.

Viking senior quarterback John Tiano was anointed as the MVP of the game by the Sun Transcript’s legendary sportswriter, Bob Remer, for his vital fourth down quarterback sneaks and two TD passes, both in the second half. Joe Giaquinto hauled in both of Tiano’s scoring strikes. The first score came on a fourth and goal at the Tewksbury three-yard line, with Giaquinto (who initially had been knocked down at the line of scrimmage and then had to get back up) snaring the pass just before stepping out of bounds along the sideline.

His second TD catch was of the more-spectacular variety, coming on a fourth and three at the Tewksbury nine. Tiano drilled a pass perfectly to Giaquinto between two defenders at the one yard stripe at the right corner, from where Giaquinto twisted into the endzone.

Tiano, who also tossed a two point conversion to Jay Petersen, was awarded the game ball in the wild celebration back at the Winthrop High School locker room.

Defensively, Chuckie Sullivan made a key play in the first half when he stopped a fake Tewksbury field goal try at the Winthrop three yard line. The play could have been a momentum changer, but it went Winthrop’s way thanks to Sullivan’s alert move from his cornerback spot in the Winthrop defensive backfield.

Sullivan of course, was most known for his exploits at halfback during the season, in which he scored 166 points, the most in Division 2 that year. However, a tough Tewksbury defense, which had allowed only 56 points all season, limited Sullivan to 72 yards on 25 carries.

Sullivan also made a key play when he hustled downfield to down a 52 yard punt by Giaquinto at the Tewksbury one yard line that set the stage for Winthrop’s first touchdown.

A merry parade escorted the Viking team bus back to Winthrop, which grew by the time the team hit the Belle Isle Bridge, with police and fire sirens wailing and cheering townspeople along the way that was mindful of the 1980 celebration that greeted Olympic hockey hero Mike Eruzione when he returned home from Lake Placid.

One fun fact from that year was that Winthrop battled Walpole in the pre-season. In the Division 1 Super Bowl game that followed the Winthrop-Tewksbury contest, Walpole defeated Brockton, 23-14.

And — yes, you guessed it — Winthrop held the edge over Walpole in their pre-season scrimmage at Miller Field.

DeFelice’s 1981 crew arguably was not merely the best team in D-2, but in the entire state.

The Super Bowl victory marked the final high school football game for a remarkable group of seniors: Tiano, Sullivan, Giaquinto, Petersen, Mike Brenner, Dan Govoni, Bubba Jaworski, George Gardikas, Greg Cayon, Gus Martucci, Lou Rosenberg, and Kevin Clauss.

The Vikings still had a number of key underclassmen, including running backs Jim Gillis and Steve Staffier; guard Alan Arcadipane; and linebackers John Gillis, Jim Barker, and Rich Driver, who would form the nucleus for another undefeated Viking season in 1982.

However, the Vikings did not return to the Super Bowl in 1982 thanks to the controversial rating system that was employed at that time by the MIAA. Winthrop was edged out for one of the top two spots (in those days, there was no playoff system like we have today), even though it generally was acknowledged that the Vikings were the best football team in D-2, if not the state.

DeFelice helmed the Vikings to yet another undefeated campaign in 1983 and this time the Vikings returned to the Super Bowl, where they won another state championship to cap a three-year unbeaten skein that stands as one of the longest undefeated streaks in Mass. schoolboy football history.

The Super Bowl triumph was the second state championship of 1981 for the WHS sports program. The Viking baseball team, led by the trio of Tiano, Sullivan and Giaquinto, won the D-2 state title earlier that spring.

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