Joe Ritchie connected with Tom Portrait for a 25 yard touchdown pass on the last play of the game to give the Revere High football team a dramatic 28-22 victory over Whittier Tech Friday evening under the lights at Harry Della Russo Stadium before a big crowd.
The clutch pass play, on which Portrait ran a pass route to the weak side that left him open in the end zone, put a big exclamation point on a spectacular night for Ritchie, a junior quarterback who stepped into the starting role as signal caller this season. Ritchie completed seven of 13 passes, good for 200 yards and three touchdowns. In addition to the final toss to Portrait, Ritchie hit his favorite receiver on the night, Kyle Gotham (five receptions for 140 yards), with TD strikes of 33 and 30 yards.
But what also stood out in Ritchie’s performance is that he accomplished it without the services of his starting backfield duo of tailback Drew Lauria and fullback Edson Cordeiro, both of whom left the game by halftime with injuries. The Patriots also saw two starting linemen forced out with injuries.
“Whittier was very physical,” noted RHS head coach Lou Cicatelli. “I was very proud of our team because they refused to fold when we lost four of our starters. Instead, everyone stepped up and figured out a way to win.”
The Pats struck for the first score in the opening quarter when Lauria capped a 60 yard drive and went over from the four yard line. Jeff Simbert kicked the PAT to make it 7-0. Revere rushed the ball the entire 60 yards to paydirt, with Ritchie pulling off some nice runs and Coredeiro bursting through the middle of the Whittier defense on some trap plays.
However, Whittier came right back with a touchdown and a two point conversion to take an 8-7 advantage. Whittier threatened again on its next possession, but the first of what would prove to be many key defensive stops by the Revere “D” reversed the momentum when the Pats held firm on a fourth and short at their own 30. The offense then came in and went right back to work, with Ritchie eventually connecting with Gotham for the their first TD of the contest. Another PAT by Simbert made it 14-8.
But that lead too, proved shortlived, as two plays after the ensuing kickoff, a Whittier runner broke free for a 70 yard TD jaunt. The conversion failed, leaving the teams deadlocked at 14-14 at the half.
Whittier held the territorial advantage in the third quarter, but though the Revere defense bent, it didn’t break, once again coming up big on key fourth down plays, including a goal line stand.. But when Whittier scored with 8:50 to go and added the two point conversion to make it a 22-14 ballgame, things looked bleak for the Pats and their fans
However, Ritchie and Co. went to work and marched down the field, with the second TD toss to Gotham, and a two point run by Ritchie, knotting matters with about three minutes left on the clock.
After taking the next kickoff, Whittier drove to its own 38, where the visitors faced a fourth and two with 1:48 to go. With three previous fourth down tries having failed, perhaps the Whittier coach figured the law of averages was on his side this time around. But the Patriot defenders, led by middle linebacker Rob Sasso, defensive end Frank Melito (six tackles), and outside linebacker Comlan Adjinah (six tackles) proved once again to be an immoveable force on fourth down tries and thwarted this attempt as well.
With the momentum on their side, the Pats seemed poised to strike for the win, but some costly penalties eventually moved the ball all the way back to the Revere 30. However, Ritchie remained undaunted and directed his squad back up the field to the Whittier 25, where the Pats called their last timeout with eight seconds showing on the clock. Cicatelli then called for the right play at the right time and sophomore Portrait found himself with the ball in the end zone for the winning score.
“This was a great win for us in so many ways,” said Cicatelli afterwards. “It showed the heart that this team has. We never gave up and refused to quit.”
Cicatelli and his crew, who now are 2-0 on the season, will face a formidable Swampscott team this week in another Friday Night Lights tilt at Della Russo Stadium. Swampscott features one of the top quarterbacks in Eastern Mass. and overall has a lot of team speed. Kick off time is 7:00.