As tremendous as the stage was, it wasn’t too big for Ryan Lush.
Playing under the lights at Fenway Park against Middlesex rival Winchester in the final game of the season, the Woburn freshman opened the game with a 60-yard touchdown.
But his signature moment came when he hauled in a 65-yard game-winning touchdown catch in the final minute of a 26-22 victory in the 116th playing of this Thanksgiving rivalry.
“This setting and that ending?” Woburn coach Jack Belcher said. “This is a Woburn-Winchester game people will talk about for a long time.”
Lush hadn’t even spent most of the season with the varsity team. He was sent down early in the season, then called back up two weeks ago. When Woburn (8-2) got the ball back at its own 35 trailing 22-19 with exactly one minute left, Belcher turned to Lush in the huddle and asked if he knew what a “5″ route was.
“A fade,” Lush replied.
“Run it,” Belcher recalled telling him.
Lush did, but the first time quarterback Brett Tuzzolo’s throw was off target. So they dialed it back up, and this time connected down the left sideline with 44 seconds remaining.
“I had to do it for my team,” Lush said. “I worked really hard all week at practice and did what I do best. It was a great, great team game; a team fight. I can’t think of anything better.”
That Woburn was trailing at all was a surprise to anyone who had watched the first 42 minutes of the game. After opening up a 16-0 lead in the first quarter, the Tanners’ offense stalled out. But the defense had four interceptions - two each by Liam Dillon and Anthony Travers - and Woburn held a 19-8 lead with the ball on Winchester’s 17-yard line with five minutes left in the game.
Suddenly, the Red & Black (1-9) turned it on, forcing the Tanners backwards and into a 4th-and-24 incompletion. Quarterback Harry Lowenstein connected on 5 of 9 passes for 68 yards on the ensuing drive before Derek Gianci leapt over the pile for a 1-yard touchdown with 1:57 remaining. After a successful two-point conversion was called back on a penalty, Winchester trailed 19-14 with no timeouts left.
Ollie Wickramsinghe drilled a perfect onside kick into the turf and Elias Kourafalos emerged from the pile with the football, giving Winchester 1:52 to score with no timeouts.
Lowenstein, who had completed just three passes in the first three quarters, threw three straight completions followed by a personal foul flag on the Tanners to set Winchester up on the 8-yard line, where Lowenstein found Ben Wilson for the go-ahead score. Gianci ran in the two-point conversion to make it 22-20.
“NFL teams would have trouble with the emotion of the way we got scored on twice,” Belcher said.
All the Red & Black had to do was survive the final minute. But Lush had other plans.
“It was crazy,” he said. “A whole lot of emotions. Coming from sadness when they just scored. It was up and down emotions.”