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LYNN– Saturday’s Northeastern Conference battle between the English and Revere football teams was everything it promised to be.
After four lead changes, a game-tying field goal and a wacky overtime period, it was the Patriots that hung on for a hard-fought 32-30 win at Manning Field.
“The first word that came to mind was resiliency,” Patriots coach Lou Cicatelli said. “We found a way. We were down in the first half. (Kicker) Rayan Riazzi had a bad game. The guys rallied around him. They found a way to win a football game. This game could’ve went either way. We were fortunate enough to get out with a win.”
Joe Llanos powered Revere’s offense with 150 rushing yards on 20 carries. Llanos scored three touchdowns via rush and returned a kickoff 77 yards for another score.
“Joe had a monster game again,” Cicatelli said. “The kickoff was huge. He’s the real deal. He’s a big part of our success.”
Despite the loss, there were positive takeaways for the Bulldogs.
“I’m happy with the way my kids battled,” English coach Chris Carroll said. “I’m happy with the way they kept fighting in a back-and-forth game. Great effort, great perseverance. We were one play short.”
English’s Sam Ofurie (16 carries, 123 yards) and Mathias Fowler (5-for-17, 138 yards) ran in two touchdowns apiece. Receiver Tahj Purter caught three passes for 102 yards and boosted English’s running game with 52 rushing yards in the second half.
“We hadn’t broken out our double-wing formation much this year,” Carroll said. “We felt good about it in the second half and we stuck with it. Tahj has done a great job in the various different roles we’ve put him in.”
Each team scored twice in the first half. Llanos put the Patriots on the board with a 61-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter. English scored the next two touchdowns on Fowler’s 12-yard keeper and Ofurie’s 5-yard rumble. Revere got one back before the half on Calvin Boudreau’s 9-yard touchdown strike to Lucas Barbosa. The difference at halftime was PAT’s. English’s Tyler Drinan split the uprights on his, Revere’s Riazzi missed his and the Bulldogs carried a 14-12 lead.
“Once Rayan started missing extra points, it started to get on him a little bit,” Ciccatelli said. “We went for two (in the third quarter) and English stopped that. We left five points on the board. It made it interesting but it’s a good bunch of kids. They found a way to win. That’s all that counts.”
Llanos broke through for two more touchdowns in the third quarter. The first was a 1-yard run (conversion failed), sealing a 35-yard drive after a short English punt. The Bulldogs answered on their next possession, with Ofurie finding an opening up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown carry (Drinan PAT). Llanos carried the ensuing kickoff 77 yards into the end zone (PAT missed), giving Revere a 24-21 lead headed into the fourth quarter.
Drinan calmly knotted the score at 24-24 on a 31-yard field goal with 8:02 remaining. With time winding down, Revere executed a picture-perfect drive into English territory to give Riazzi a shot at the game-winner. But Riazzi missed from 45 yards away, forcing overtime.
Llanos put the Patriots up 32-24 on a 2-yard run and conversion rush. English quickly marched to Revere’s 2-yard line and handed the ball to Ofurie. In a wild turn of events, Revere knocked the ball loose and, rather than end the game by falling on it, ran it out of the end zone. That’s when Fowler, in the right place at the right time, recovered a Revere fumble and carried it in from 12 yards out to close the gap to 32-30.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Carroll said. “When we fumbled the ball, you don’t think much of it. All the sudden the ball pops back up and we run it. It was an unbelievable play.”
Instead of hanging its heads down after a missed opportunity, Revere’s defense made its biggest play of the afternoon on the ensuing 2-point attempt in stopping Fowler’s keeper short for the 32-30 win.
Revere (5-0) visits Marblehead (5-0) Friday (7) in a battle of unbeaten teams.
English (3-2) travels Saugus Friday (7).
“We have a game next week and we need to be ready,” Carroll said. “We have a tough Saugus team to get ready for. ”