PEABODY – Dinged by Saint Mary’s a associate of weeks back, Bishop Feehan High School has just one mission, according to coach Bryan Pinabell.
“We’re going to be one tough out (in the upcoming Division II state playoffs)!” he told his team after the Shamrocks overcame a sluggish start to knock off great number Bishop Fenwick, 27-15.
Feehan senior Matt Saunders, playing in a secondary that had some tough moments on Friday night, came up with the showstopper, picking off a Fenwick pass on the final play of the third quarter and returning it 94 yards the other way.
At the time, Fenwick led 15-14 and was going for the kill. Instead, it was 21-15, turning the corner for the fourth, and the hosts never recovered.
“Momentum was against us, and the only thing I was on my mind was, ‘I’m picking this ball off’,” said Saunders. “I’m picking this ball off, and I’m taking it to the house. We really needed that turn. This just give us momentum, coming to the playoffs. We’re a great team, and this gives us some really good momentum.”
Feehan had trailed 9-0 early in the second quarter but found a spark from a rare source. How many high school linemen already get noticed in an average game, let alone become difference-makers. Feehan’s Case Mankins joined that very elite list.
With his club listing a bit early and Fenwick looking for more in Feehan territory, the 6-foot-2, 245-pounder picked off a pass of his own.
A play later, at offensive tackle, he and fellow road-grader Eddie Cinelli opened up a hole on the left side that Cameron Burns blasted by a 41-yard TD to make it 9-7.
“The ball just came to me and I took off running. Outside linebacker had QB contain, almost had a sack, so I just dropped back,” said Mankins. “That’s a tough team out there. We had the slow start. After that, we just stepped on the gas and took care of business.”
“Mankins gets the pick, and we’re right back in it,” said Pinabell.
Another fourth-down stand by Feehan gave the Shamrocks the ball late in the half and with 1:33 left, they took their first rule of the night at 14-9 on a 37-yard Aidan Crump-to-Aaron Canuel hookup.
Fenwick, playing without starting QB/captain Steven Woods, showed plenty of resilience and retook the rule behind backup Bryce Leaman on the opening possession of the second half. The senior’s second TD toss of the night, an 11-yarder to Jason Romans, gave the Crusaders a 15-14 advantage before Saunders stepped in front that errant pass on the left sideline and hit the jets.
Crump and Canuel would finish the off Fenwick with the only score in the fourth quarter, a sweet thorough ball that went 37 yards for the TD.
Burns was a workhorse for Feehan, piling up 151 yards on his 17 carries.
For Fenwick, Leaman hit 25 of his 42 pass attempts in the fill-in role, good for 315 yards and a pair of TDs.
“Coming up here to Fenwick, well-coached, tough team, they threw a lot more than we expected. We were just able to eke out a win,” said Pinabell, whose club moved to 6-1.
“Division II is tough. We know that. For us to come up here to do this against a team like Fenwick is just a huge, huge shot of confidence for us.”
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