By Joyce Erekson
St. Mary’s football fans won’t have to wait until Thanksgiving Eve for the much anticipated showdown against Bishop Fenwick. The two teams will meet Friday (7) in the Division 5 North semifinals at Donaldson Stadium in Peabody.
The last time the two teams met in the playoffs was two years ago and the Crusaders, the No. 1 seed, won that game fairly handily. Fenwick also won last year’s regular-season Catholic Central League matchup, 21-0.
“Fenwick is an excellent football team,” St. Mary’s coach Matt Durgin said. “We’ve had trouble the last few years with them. It’s going to be very difficult going over there to play.”
St. Mary’s heads into Friday night’s game with a 6-2 record, 4-1 in the CCL. Fenwick is 7-1, 4-1 in the CCL. Both teams’ only league loss came against Cardinal Spellman.
The Spartans ride into Peabody courtesy of a 46-22 win over Greater Lawrence in the quarterfinals. Senior quarterback Antonio Felix threw five touchdown passes in that game with three going to Calvin Johnson. Abraham Toe also came up huge with two rushing touchdowns and 169 yards on the ground.
The Crusaders will also come well-armed. Their arsenal includes a couple of Lynn guys, seniors Cody Mullen and Justice Andrade. Mullen has been a force of nature for Fenwick, leading the team in receptions, scoring, receiving yards and interceptions. He had two picks in Fenwick’s quarterfinal win over Shawsheen Tech. Andrade, a senior offensive and defensive lineman, is one of four captains along with Mullen. Fenwick also has a talented freshman quarterback, Cory Bright, who lead leads the team in rushing with about 500 yards.
“I think they have good team speed on defense,” Durgin said. “Offensively they throw the ball really well. They have an excellent quarterback. He’s only a freshman, which is very scary. We’re going to see him for the next four years.”
Fenwick also poses a challenge on the ground with sophomore back Isaiah Cashwell-Doe, who had 140 yards rushing on 13 carries against Greater Lawrence.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Fenwick coach Dave Woods said. “St. Mary’s is a great team. They have some phenomenal athletes and Coach Durgin does a great job … it’s nice to have your rival in such a big game. I think both teams are really looking forward to it.”
Although the two teams will meet again the night before Thanksgiving, both coaches say the focus is on Friday night’s game.
“They’re a very good football team and we need to be at our best to compete,” Durgin said. “We can’t make mistakes and turn the ball over. We need to play as well as we can. We’re just focusing on Friday. We’re not even thinking about Thanksgiving.”
Even though the Spartans have come up short against Fenwick the last few years, Durgin is expecting a battle.
“They (the previous meetings between the two teams) have been hard-fought, physical games,” Durgin said. “They made more plays than we did. It’s always a slugfest.”