LYNN — Matthew Guidebeck had no time to warm up in the bitter cold— the North Reading kicker had just enough time to take a deep breath before firing off a final hope. A 38-yard field goal attempt stood between the Hornets and a second consecutive trip to Gillette Stadium.
The senior did more than guide it home to give North Reading the most frantic of wins — his kick would have been good from 50 yards.
A 32-29 triumph over Bishop Fenwick booked the Hornets back into the Division 5 Super Bowl.
Fenwick charged back to tie the game, 29-all, with 33 seconds remaining after an 80-yard, 15-play scoring drive that survived two fourth downs. Anthony Nichols scored from 2 yards out and Aidan Silva’s point-after knotted it.
But Alex Carucci and the Hornets responded in haste. Carucci completed two passes and scrambled twice to get the Hornets (10-1) to Fenwick’s 22-yard line.
“Trust our instincts and trust the team and we’ll battle to the last second no matter the outcome,” said Guidebeck, who lined up at wide receiver during the last offensive possession, meaning he got no kicks on the sideline.
“I think it’s better, the nerves are calm,” he added. “Just relax and do what I train all summer, all year for.”
He knew it was good the second it left his foot.
North Reading held a 21-8 advantage in the third after Carucci’s second rushing touchdown. Then the Crusaders (9-2) came to life with back-to-back rushing scores from Bryce Leaman and Luke Connolly.
Will Batten gave the Hornets a 29-22 lead with five minutes left with an 11-yard score before Fenwick’s massive drive to set up the electric conclusion.
“The players executed. All it takes is one negative play or one dropped pass,” said North Reading coach Ed Blum of the final drive.
“They just stepped up when the game mattered . . . The leadership of this team. We have a lot of seniors and they just trust each other and they have brought the underclassmen up. They’re doing a heck of a job and we get to go back to Gillette.”