Having plowed through seven St. Mary’s defenders en route to a 22-yard touchdown run Saturday night, Rufus Rushins left a path of bodies sprawled on the ground behind him at Manning Field.
It was the second score of the night for the 6-foot-1, 230-pound bruising junior back as unbeaten Bishop Fenwick captured the 300th win in program history, and its first Catholic Central Large title in a decade, with a 34-6 win.
“I’m a Lynn native so I’ve really been wanting to beat St. Mary’s for the last three years,” said Rushins, a three-year starter who has received looks from several Division 1 college programs. “That’s the only team we hadn’t beat in the CCL since I’ve been here.”
Last fall, Rushins was oh-so-close to beating the archrival, but with Fenwick trailing, 14-12, with 30 seconds to go in the game, he fumbled on the goal line and the Spartans recovered.
It was a loss that essentially cost Fenwick the CCL crown.
“That one really stuck with me for a few weeks. I put it in the past, but it did sting a little bit,” said Rushins, who came back this fall bigger and stronger, with hopes of a CCL and Super Bowl title.
And before he departs, he would like to climb the state’s all-time rushing list, which head coach Dave Woods said is certainly a possibility.
“We have never had a running back with his combination of speed and power,” said Woods, who also coached Bobby Tarr, a 2008 Fenwick grad who left with 5,601 yards, the third-highest in state history.
“Barring injury, I don’t think there’s any doubt he’ll pass Bobby. I think he may have some higher sights on Cedric Washington [Holyoke], the all-time leading rusher [6,688 yards] in state history.”
A little more than halfway through his junior year, Rushins has accumulated 3,378 yards, an impressive number considering that the Crusaders also have a prolific passing game.
While Rushins literally carries his opponents on his back, senior quarterback Nick Bona has been carrying Fenwick on his.
“Nick is without question the number one reason why we’re at where we are right now,” said Woods, who has nine four-year varsity players.
“He brings an intensity to the team; whether it’s in games, practice, in weight room sessions, he’s the most intense kid we’ve ever had and it’s very contagious. He is definitely the leader of the team and kids gravitate to him and he raises the level of play for everybody.”
The captain is starting at quarterback for the first time since his sophomore year, when he played five games with a fractured vertebra, not knowing the severity of the injury.
He started at receiver last year, but after working hard on his quarterbacking skills in the offseason, he entered the preseason a different player.
“I’m definitely not your prototypical quarterback, not being 6-foot tall, 200 pounds or whatever,” said Bona, who stands 5-8 and weighs 165 pounds.
“But I know I can throw the ball, whether the opposition thinks I can or not. They’ll find out.”
Against St. Mary’s, Bona tossed three first-half touchdowns, and was a nightmare for Spartan coach Matt Durgin.
“He is by far the MVP of our league,” said the six-year coach. “He’s physical, plays with an edge, and he just has a great desire. He’s as good a player as there is on the North Shore.”
With Bona throwing to Eric Razney and Charlie Maistrellis, a lot of pressure is taken off Rushins.
“It’s easier running the ball when teams have to respect the pass, so that means they have to take less off the blocks,” said the Crusaders’ star back.
Bona loves watching Rushins plow down opposing players, and as a starting linebacker on defense, he would love the opportunity of going one-on-one with his much larger teammate.
“It’d be good. I’m sure it’d be a big pop,” Bona said. “I wouldn’t shy away from him.”
It is a mentality that the entire Crusader team has adopted from Bona: They have outscored opponents an average of 44.2 to 14.2.
Fenwick has one regular-season game remaining, Saturday against Archbishop Williams (2-4).
“We’re in a great position right now,” said Woods, in his 16th year at the helm.
“To go undefeated in the league would be really nice, and if we win this game we’ll be the No. 1 seed and that would guarantee us home field throughout [the playoffs], so that would definitely be an advantage.”
Andover High is playing like a playoff contender with the return of talented senior Jack Sylvester to the lineup.
In a 49-32 win over La Salle Academy (R.I.) Friday night, Sylvester accumulated 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns (70 and 69 yards) on 14 carries, hauled in a 15-yard scoring pass, and registered eight tackles with an interception at safety.
It was the second straight win for the Golden Warriors (3-3) and the second full game for Sylvester, who had 205 rushing yards and three touchdowns the previous week against Billerica.
“We were a whole different team with him, and the last two games have shown that,” said coach E.J. Perry.
Sylvester, an elite freestyle skier, attends Waterville Valley Academy during the second and third quarters of the school year. Last winter he broke an ankle on the slopes, and then reinjured the same ankle in a scrimmage before the season.
He returned in the second game against BC High, only to feel discomfort once again.
Sylvester returned in the fourth week against Central Catholic, but received two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, was ejected, and by MIAA rules, was suspended for the following game, a loss against Chelmsford.
“Jack’s the heart and soul of the team. Some people thought that we were going to have difficulty getting back in the race, but I knew once he got back we’d be all set,” said Perry.
Friday, Andover faces Lowell in a must-win situation.
for the Bulldogs
Paul Worth , who started the North Shore Tech varsity program 19 years ago, notched his 100th victory on Saturday, with a 30-6 win over the Minutemen.
The win also clinched the Bulldogs’ third straight Commonwealth Small title, including a three-way tie with Chelsea and Greater Lowell in 2011.
“It was pretty special, but it was more about the kids. I’ve had a great group of kids over the years,” said Worth, who missed the 2007-08 season while earning his master’s degree at Cambridge College.
“The first win was just as important as the 100th win and all it means is that I’ve been there a long time.”
In Saturday’s win, linebacker Dan Bailey recorded 27 tackles and ran for a touchdown.
“He just had a monster game,” Worth said of the junior captain. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had anybody have a defensive game like that in the 17 years I’ve coached here.”
Bailey — who Worth says “might be the best player I’ve ever had” — is averaging 14.5 tackles per game this season.
North Shore never threw the ball against the Mustangs, as Ross Murphy carried the offense with 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns.