LYNN, Mass. -– Coming into Saturday night’s showdown with St. Mary’s, Bishop Fenwick wanted to make a statement. A victory would give the Crusaders their first Catholic Central Large championship since 2003.
Fenwick did just that. Led by Nick Bona (11-15, 148 yards, 3 TD, INT) and Rufus Rushins (19 carries, 160 yards, 2 TD), the Crusaders (6-0) ran away with the game in the second half, knocking off league rival St. Mary’s (3-3) in convincing fashion, 34-6.
Bona got things started quickly, tossing a 28-yard touchdown pass to Eric Razney to get the Crusaders on the board first. After a three and out by the St. Mary’s offense, Bona found Tom Parsons on third down for a nine-yard score, giving the Crusaders a 14-0 lead following the two-point conversion.
“I got to say, that’s the toughest game we’ve had all year. St. Mary’s brought it tonight for sure. They came out in the single wing, we weren’t really prepared for the single wing, but we made some adjustments on the fly,” Fenwick coach David Woods said. “After that first series when we stopped them then went down and scored, that set the tone of the game no question.”
It was Rushins who anchored what was a quick next drive for Fenwick, rolling through the St. Mary’s defense and gaining 36 yards in the process. On the very next play Bona looked Parsons’ way once again—the result was a 30-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead for the Crusaders.
“[Bona] threw a couple beautiful balls, he’s a unique kid no question—to be able to make those throws, run with the ball, and then be able to go over on the other side on defense and make the hits and the tackles," Woods said. "I don’t think I’ve ever coached a kid like Nick Bona."
Bona said his confidence was riding high, especially with the ball in his hands in the first half.
“I don’t have the biggest hands, but if I have a good grip on the ball I can sling it around. Throwing with the wind always helps. I don’t even throw with the laces anymore, I just throw it whatever way I can get,” he said.
Fenwick added two scores after the half, both on runs by Rushin. On the second score, Rushin literally shook off seven different St. Mary’s tacklers to run it in from 22 yards out. Jordan Manthorne (11 carries, 132 yards, TD) added an impressive 58 yard run down the sideline in the fourth quarter that got St. Mary’s on the board, but the effort was too little too late.
A long time coming: Bona is the emotional leader of a squad that Woods and his staff have had high hopes for since Bona was a freshman. The most impressive part for Woods isn’t so much the stats that Bona has been putting up, but instead how he’s putting up those stats as a true dual threat quarterback.
“When he was a freshman, he had no fear at all," Woods said. "We always knew he was an athlete and that he could play the game of football, but he’s really turned into a quarterback now. That was something that was a surprise. I knew he was a great athlete…some of the reads he’s made, some of the balls he’s thrown -- he’s a complete player."
The Crusaders have won by an average of 30 points per game this season, a stat that even Woods admits had him a little surprised. The enthusiasm and hard-nosed play by his team, he said, is just a reflection of the example set by the senior captain.
“No question he’s the heart of the team, the guys absolutely look to him on both sides of the ball. He weighs 150 pounds, but you can’t weigh how much his heart is that’s for sure,” Woods said. “He’s got more heart than anyone I’ve seen for a long time around here. The other kids feed off that.”
Not one for accolades or harping on personal accomplishments, Bona will continue to take it upon himself to make sure Fenwick stays focused on their ultimate goal:
“We know we want to get to Gillette, we want to win a Super Bowl. It’s in the back of my mind, I know it’s in the back of a lot of our minds, for all the seniors this is the last run we’ve got—we have to go to the Super Bowl.”