The Revere football community was brimming with optimism last season before disaster struck in a calamitous turn of events in Game 4.
Starting quarterback Calvin Boudreau was already out for the year due to a broken collarbone when the Patriots lost tight end Mazer Ali, linebacker Zach Furlong, and running back Joe Llanos to season-ending injuries in a conference tilt at Peabody on Sept 28.
Even with five underclassmen playing both sides in their varsity debuts, Revere topped Peabody, 29-27, but fluttered throughout the rest of the regular season and eventually fell to Division 4 North champion Gloucester in the state tournament.
Now that Boudreau, Ali, Furlong, and Llanos are back and healthy, the Patriots have opened their 2019 campaign on fire with wins over Gloucester (38-8) and Peabody (24-0), and that optimism has returned.
“Those are three key pieces to the puzzle that were missing last year,” said Patriots 17-year-coach Lou Cicatelli. “They all worked hard in the offseason and now good things are happening here in Revere.”
Cicatelli, 56, has lived through much of Revere’s football history. At the age of 8, he had a front row seat in Brockton during the Patriots’ last Super Bowl appearance in 1972. During his senior year at Revere, the Patriots went 7-4 under legendary coach Silvio Cella, but the program failed to record a winning season for much of the following decade.
After 11 seasons as an assistant at Burlington, Everett, and Revere, Cicatelli took over as head coach at his alma mater with the hopes of guiding the program back to success while also making a positive impact on his players.
“Growing up in Revere and playing under Silvio Cella, I learned a lot of life lessons,” said Cicatelli. “Being able to give back to my community and point these kids in the right direction is huge to me. We want to win games like anyone else, but it’s more about making a difference in these kids’ lives.”
When Cicatelli first took over, he recalls winning only 2, 3, or 4 games per season until the program progressively improved. Revere moved from the Greater Boston League to the Northeastern Conference, and will return to the GBL starting next season. For now, the Patriots’ primary goal is competing in one of the most balanced conferences in the state.
“We want to win a [NEC] title, that’s our first goal,” said Cicatelli. “Don’t get me wrong. We made a lot of friends in the NEC, and from top to bottom, it’s one of the toughest conferences in the state, especially this year. But [the GBL] is definitely a good fit for us. We’re an urban district just like all those schools.”
In order to win an outright NEC title, the Patriots will likely have to get past Lynn Classical next Friday, Lynn English on Oct. 12, and powerhouse Marblehead on Oct. 18.
The sledding will be tough, but whatever the results, the players know that Cicatelli and his staff will be supportive.
“Coach has been there for us when we were winning or losing,” said senior captain Jon Murphy, who has recorded 100-plus receiving yards in both games this season. “[Cicatelli] puts in a lot of hours before and after school and we really appreciate how he always has our back.”
Murphy was forced to fill in at quarterback last year when Boudreau suffered a collarbone injury, but now he’s flourishing at his natural position.
Meanwhile, Llanos has tallied 348 rushing yards and five touchdowns (plus an 85-yard kickoff return for touchdown) to balance out the Patriots offense. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound senior might not have the same size as other tailbacks, but according to Cicatelli, his agility is unparalleled.
After moving to Revere from Attleboro his sophomore year, Llanos was blown away by the level of community support for the football team. Forced to sit out for the majority of his junior season, Llanos is now filled with optimism, bolstered by the backing of one of the most fervent fan bases in the Greater Boston area.
“In Revere, you can tell it means a lot to everyone, especially to the coaches,” Llanos said. “The whole community comes together for the games. There’s nothing like it.”
■ While Atlantis Charter suffered a 27-21 loss to Holbrook/Avon on Friday, sophomore Michael Rivera nearly stole the show. The outside linebacker, who was born with a partially-developed left arm, recorded a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown to help Atlantis mount a late comeback bid in the fourth quarter. “He’s an extremely hard working kid,” said Atlantis coach Chuck Phillips. “You wouldn’t know he had a disability by the way he carries himself every day. Everything is guided by that one hand.”
■ Behind three touchdowns from returning Globe All-Sholastic David Cifuentes, Bishop Fenwick handled Wilmington, 40-6, for the 350th win in the program’s 57-year history . . . Marblehead thrashed Gloucester, 49-0, for the Magicians ninth consecutive win over their NEC rivals and the greatest margin of victory since a 64-0 rout over the Fishermen in 1923 . . . Apponequet topped Old Rochester, 14-0, for the first time in four seasons . . . Middleborough running back Isaiah Cobbs tallied five touchdowns, including the game-winner in a 34-26 victory over Bishop Stang . . . Stoneham tailback Seth Russell made his return from a torn ACL and tallied a 62-yard rushing touchdown in a 46-7 win over Arlington . . . TechBoston used a 55-yard touchdown from Kadeem Dare with 3:20 left to edge Carver/Sacred Heart for a 22-21 win and Boston Latin edged Latin Academy, 8-7, on a two-yard touchdown and two-point conversion rush from Ulysses Brenzel.
■ Perennial powerhouse programs Xaverian and Duxbury entered Friday’s tough contests with 0-2 records for the first time in recent memory. Both required late-game heroics to avoid falling to 0-3, with Will Prouty (16 carries, 121 yards, three touchdowns) leading the Dragons in a 27-10 win over Scituate. “All 0-2 is going to do is motivate us for the future,” said wide receiver Jack Murphy. “That was one hell of a week of practice. We knew we had our backs against the wall, and we fought.”
Despite yielding two touchdowns to visiting Bridgewater-Raynham on kickoff returns, Xaverian rallied behind a strong rushing attack in a narrow 36-35 win on an 11-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Michael Berluti and a 2-point conversion from Joe Kelcourse.
“We’ve been playing some really good football teams and we just want to be in position in the fourth quarter,” said Xaverian coach Al Fornaro, whose Hawks opened with losses at Barnstable (20-14) and vs. Everett (27-21).
“When great teams play each other, somebody’s got to lose. I always want to play the best opponents we can play. This was a huge win for us, emotionally, because if we go 0-3, I’m not sure where this team goes.”