Fenwick has battled adversity this season

Jake Miano has put together a solid season for the Crusaders. (COURTESY PHOTO FROM ROSE RAYMOND)

When it comes to high school rivalries, it doesn’t get any better than Bishop Fenwick and St. Mary’s.

While no matter what the sport or season, any game between the Catholic Central League rivals is sure to be chock full of school spirit and emotion, the annual Thanksgiving football game takes the cake.

Over the past six seasons Fenwick and St. Mary’s have dominated the CCL with the Crusaders winning titles in 2013 (the year they ran the table and won a Super Bowl), 2014 and 2015, while the Spartans won titles in 2012, 2016 and 2017.

This year, the Crusaders had their first losing season since 2011 when they were 3-8.  The injury bug struck before the season started when quarterback and captain Cory Bright was injured in a scrimmage and missed the first four games.  Derek DelVecchio filled in admirably before Bright returned to action for three games only to suffer a season-ending injury in the Spellman game.  Since then, a couple of underclassmen have taken the quarterback reins – freshman Chrys Wilson and sophomore Jake Miano.

“Derek did a tremendous job for us filling in, he’s a great leader and fighter,” said Woods. “Both of these young kids (Wilson and Miano) bring a lot of energy and talent to the offense, they each have their own set of strengths and have done a phenomenal job, but again they are a freshman and sophomore so there is a certain amount of a learning curve going on getting used to the speed of varsity football.”

Woods is not making any excuses.

“Our kids have been great all year in facing adversity,” he said.  “We may have had to deal with a little bit more than normal this year, but it’s not anything that any other team hasn’t had to deal with. Our kids have fought hard in every game and have shown great resiliency. And our younger kids are certainly getting a baptism by fire.”

Fenwick, which has won four of the last seven meetings between the two teams, is coming into the game an underdog, at least on paper. But none of that matters when it comes to Thanksgiving.

“No matter what sport or what either team’s record is, there is something special about a Fenwick vs. St. Mary’s game,” said Woods.  “For both schools it’s our Auburn-Alabama or Red Sox-Yankees. The fans are into it, each school’s community is into it, it really makes for a great atmosphere, but there is certainly nothing better than a Fenwick vs. St. Mary’s Thanksgiving football game.

“Like all of the great rivalries we bring out the best in each other (and sometimes the worst as well) I think of the game we had in 2012 when St. Mary’s won 14-12 here at Donaldson Stadium, what a great high school football game that was. Or the instant classic we had in 2015 at Manning Field where Fenwick won 36-30. Those were two of the best games I’ve ever been involved with as a coach.”

Last year’s game won by the Spartans, 22-13, wasn’t too shabby either.  The game wasn’t decided until the last two minutes when Calvin Johnson’s third touchdown of the game put the Spartans ahead for good.

Woods says Fenwick will look to its seniors to get the job done: captains Jaycab Reynoso and Michael Sellard, Luis Naranjo Chester MacAskill, Mateo Cifuentes, Luke Deschenes, Matt Dibiase and Sebastian Balan.  

“They do get to strap it up one more time though and go out there with their brothers to do battle one last time. We know St. Mary’s is a great team and a very talented team. They have all the ingredients of a championship team. They are tough, physical, athletic and as always very well coached. Coach (Matt) Durgin and coach (Derek) Dana do an outstanding job, but we are going to leave everything on the field and give it our best shot, just as we’ve done all year. It should be a fun night.”

Kickoff at Manning Field is set for 6 p.m.

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