Nothing, and everything, will be on the line when the Revere and Winthrop High football teams clash for the 81st time on Thanksgiving morning at 10:00 a.m. at Miller Field in Winthrop.
Neither team has any post-season prospects that are dependent upon Thursday morning’s score on the Miller Field scoreboard when time expires. But as always is the case when a Revere-Winthrop game is on the holiday platter, the final outcome will mean more than any contest either squad has played all season.
Here’s how the pre-game news story 70 years ago in the 1941 Revere Journal described what the Winthrop-Revere game means to both the participants and the fans (and this was when the series between the two schools was not even half as old as it is today): “But like Harvard-Yale, Boston College-Holy Cross, and Army-Navy, past records count for little when Revere and Winthrop face each other on Thanksgiving Day. Through the years these traditional battles always have produced their share of thrills and spills in their long and intense rivalry which draws thousands of spectators every year.”
So winning THE game in and of itself always means a lot on both sides of the gridiron, irrespective of all of the other games that preceded it in the season. But with both Revere and Winthrop coming into Thanksgiving Day with identical 5-5 records, a winning season also will be on the line and thus THE game truly marks a second season of sorts for both squads.
But for Revere, the battle looms as even more significant because a victory by the 2011 Patriots will mark the football program’s first .500-plus year since 1981.
“This game really is extra special for us,” said RHS head coach Lou Cicatelli. “The Winthrop game always is the biggest one on our schedule and the one we look forward to the most, but we also have a chance to do something no Revere team has done in a long time.”
In addition to achieving a winning record, Cicatelli and his crew also can make it two wins in a row over Winthrop, a feat not accomplished by Revere since 1972-74, when the Patriots won three in a row.
That era marked the end of the parity between the two schools in their rivalry. When the Patriots and their fans left Harry Della Russo Stadium in 1974, Revere held a 22-19-3 advantage. Since that time, Revere has emerged victorious just four times in 36 contests: 1984, 1989, 2001, and 2010.
“When we won last year, so many former players came onto the field at the end of the game to congratulate us,” said Cicatelli. “They felt a connection to us and were as happy as we were that we had beaten Winthrop.”
So how does the 2011 contest shape up and who figures to be the big playmakers for both teams? Unlike the past few years when Revere and Winthrop shared many opponents in the former configuration of the Northeastern Conference, this season saw them battle only one common foe in the newly organized Cape Ann League/NEC by which to judge a possible favorite and underdog.
That opponent was Swampscott, a powerhouse team that is 9-1 and is ranked 16th in the state in the Boston Globe poll. Swampscott is assured of winning the Cal/NEC Division 2 and a berth in the post season playoffs. Winthrop, which is in the CAL/NEC D-3, encountered Swampscott in the second week of the season and came out on the short end of a 33-14 decision. Revere (which is in the CAL/NEC D-1) took on Swampscott the following week and met the same fate by a 28-0 margin.
In addition, when you go through the teams’ schedules and try to make a comparison of their once-removed opponents, the analysis similarly reveals that Winthrop and Revere are evenly matched. Further, their points for/points against numbers are about the same: 15.7-22.5 for Revere and 17.2-18.8 for Winthrop. However, Revere clearly has faced stronger rivals on a week to week basis in Division 1 of the CAL/NEC, as opposed the smaller schools of the CAL/NEC D-3 whom Winthrop faced. Further, Revere played against three Division 1 non-league opponents and Winthrop played none.
Revere and Winthrop arrived at their 5-5 records via different paths. Revere opened the season with a flourish, winning five of its first six games against Medford (21-0), Whittier Tech (28-22), Salem (14-0), Cambridge (42-33), and Peabody (20-17). The lone loss in that span was to Swampscott.
The Pats then dropped their next four tilts, all of which were against Cal/NEC Division 1 foes: Lynn English (38-13), North Andover (34-6), Lynn Classical (25-6), and Masconomet (28-7).
By contrast, Winthrop started out slowly, losing to Danvers (18-8) and Swampscott, before defeating Marblehead (29-12). Winthrop then dropped to 1-3 with a 35-7 defeat to Beverly, but then won four in a row: Weston (28-6), Saugus (28-21), Pentucket (21-20), and Amesbury (14-12).
The Vikings then fell to Triton (19-16) and Newburyport (12-7). In the latter game, Winthrop had a chance to win the CAL/NEC 3 championship, but allowed Newburyport to score two touchdowns in the final four minutes to claim the win and the title.
When Revere has the ball, captain Drew Lauria will be the main man from his tailback position. Drew rushed for 1190 yards this season and scored 17 touchdowns, 14 by rushing and three by receiving. Quarterback Joe Ritchie has had a fine year in his first season at the helm of the Patriot offense. Ritchie, a junior, tossed for six TDs, with his favorite targets being Lauria and sophomore halfback Tom Portrait coming out of the backfield and Kyle Gotham at wide receiver.
A key for Revere will be how the Pats match up in the trenches against a Winthrop team that may have a size advantage. Revere will be led by the senior quartet on the offensive line of Frank Melito and Armin Katadzic at tackles, Nick Russo at center, and Jay Hittinger at tight end.
The Patriot defense is spearheaded by their captain and middle linebacker, Rob Sasso, who led the team with 93 tackles on the season. The senior trio of nose guard Jim Domenici and tackles Edson Cordeiro and Oscar DesJardins will anchor the Revere “D.” Fellow seniors Andrew Estrada and Dan Portrait also will be expected to make key contributions on defense.
Winthrop’s offense is centered around senior quarterback Jimmy Barker, who is a running and throwing threat. Barker has no favorite target, but has found lanky senior Quinton Dale, a member of the state champion Winthrop basketball team, for some long passes. Sophomore running back Jordan Corbett-Frank has received the call when tough yardage is needed.
Another key aspect of the game could be the place kicking of Jeff Simbert for Revere and Dale for Winthrop. Both have been accurate place kickers this season and both have the potential to boot long distance field goals if needed.
But as with any football game, especially one that is expected to be played on a muddy Miller Field (the weather forecast shows heavy rain all day Wednesday, which will make Miller a mosh pit), turnovers and penalties undoubtedly will prove the decisive factor.
Both teams committed their share of turnovers this season and for Winthrop it proved fatal to their D-3 title hopes when a botched punt snap and then a fumble led to the pair of Newburyport touchdowns in the final minutes.
“This should be great football game,” said Cicatelli, who lauded the leadership of his captains, Lauria and Sasso, both on and off the field. “Both teams can do a lot of good things on both sides of the ball. We’ve seen a lot of their film and their games in person, and they’ve seen a lot of ours, so it will come down to which team executes their game plan and which one avoids mistakes. Our team has fought hard all season long and shown it can come back to win games, as has Winthrop. We expect that it will be a battle to the final whistle.”