A reality check might have been the best thing to happen to senior Conor Freeley and his Boston Latin teammates.
In a Thanksgiving tradition dating to 1887, Boston Latin came into Thursday’s game boasting a 77-37-13 record against Boston English in the annual football bout.
However, it was last season’s 14-12 loss that motivated Latin Thursday. Before last season, English hadn’t won on Thanksgiving since 1997.
The Wolfpack (2-9) shut out the Blue & Blue Eagles (7-4) in the second half and cruised to a 25-8 victory at Harvard Stadium. Freeley threw for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
Last season, Freeley experienced Latin’s wrenching defeat from the helpless view of the sideline. Now a starter, the senior had extra motivation to step up against rival English.
“This win means more than any other win I’ve played in [during] my four years of high school,” said Freeley. “I was here last year; I was sitting on the sideline. [English] scored with one second left to win the game, and even though I wasn’t on the field, that hurt as much as it did the guys who were.”
Freeley remembers seeing the tired, dejected faces of his teammates after that loss. He wasn’t about to let that happen again.
“For [those same guys] to come up and thank me today, that’s what meant the most,” he said.
Freeley opened the scoring with a 9-yard pass to sophomore Mike Litto. On English’s ensuing possession, senior Emmanuel Almonte pinned Latin at its 1-yard line with a 47-yard punt that English eventually coverted into a safety to make the score 7-2.
On offense, Almonte found senior Stevaughn Dowdye for a 3-yard pass as English took an 8-7 lead after one quarter.
Freeley responded with a 37-yard touchdown pass to junior Justin Springle to make the score 13-8. English had a chance to jump ahead late in the second, but a Darius Boodoosingh touchdown run was called back for holding.
Almonte (157 yards rushing) ran for 107 yards in the first half but was stymied in the second.
In the third quarter, Freeley hooked up with Litto again, this time for 60 yards as the Wolfpack began to pull away. Junior Andreas Kaplan cemented the victory with a 4-yard run to make it 25-8.
“I definitely could have done better, but I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life,” said Freeley. “This is probably my last football game, and I’m glad I did it right.”
Even after the win, the work wasn’t done. Latin coach John McDonough had his seniors run sprints one last time. It was a fitting end to a memorable game for Freeley and his senior teammates.
“You always want to win [this game],” said McDonough. “We were expressing to the seniors that this is the one they’re going to be remembered for.
“This is their legacy, Thanksgiving. Nobody’s going to ask how you did the other 10 games. They want to know ‘Thanksgiving, how’d you do against English?’ ”
This year, McDonough will be happy to answer that question.