PEABODY — All season, Bryan Pinabell had been itching for a litmus test. A unique chance to see exactly where his Bishop Feehan football group stood late in the fall.
Despite some challenges Thursday night, he and the Shamrocks now have to be feeling pretty good about how things are shaping up. Rising quarterback Owen Mordas finished with 130 yards passing, and fired a game-clinching touchdown strike to Jack Higgins as Bishop Feehan registered its defining win with a 29-26 triple overtime victory against Bishop Fenwick.
“I said to my guys in the huddle that we needed a game like this,” said Pinabell. “We’re about to go into the guantlet of the Division 2 playoffs, and we are going to be in games like this. It isn’t easy to play in a game like this. There’s adversity.”
The game was billed as a clash between two of the top offenses in the Catholic Central League. For the majority of the opening quarter, Bishop Fenwick (5-2) lived up to its reputation, as senior Luke Connolly scampered right up the middle for a 29-yard touchdown rush just moments into play. The Crusaders would pad their lead later in the frame with a one-yard rush by senior captain Anthony Nicholas, jumping out to an impressive 14-0 edge with 2:06 left in the stanza.
However, when you face a team as explosive as Bishop Feehan (33.8 points per game entering Thursday), brace yourself for a scoring surge. It took a sequence lasting only 1:41 for the Shamrocks (6-1) to even things. Quinn rushed for a three-yard touchdown scamper with 3:02 left in the half, then watched his teammate Brett McCafferey come away with a massive interception on Bishop Fenwick’s ensuing drive just seconds later. With 1:21 left in the second quarter, Quinn punched in his second score, a two-yard rush to make it a 14-14 ballgame.
Later on in the second half, the bout became a chess match. Extended drives were in short supply, but each school’s kicker stepped up. Bishop Fenwick regained a 17-14 lead on a 37-yard field goal from Aidan Silva, but Bishop Feehan responded with a long try from distance itself. Shortly after a penalty kept a drive alive for the Shamrocks, they were able to capitalize as Austin Clemente hit a 36-yarder for the equalizer with 7:58 left.
“Austin’s got ice water in his veins,” said Pinabell. “When he missed a field goal earlier in the game, he came off the field and said: ‘I’ll kick it again if we get in that spot.’ ”
Bishop Feehan’s faith was rewarded, and the showdown entered an overtime session after the two programs traded possessions for the remainder of regulation.
In a similar trend to what fans witnessed for most of the second half, neither school was able to find offensive success. Instead, they could only bite their fingernails as the two kickers continued their duel into a third extra frame.
Silva would knock home a 25-yard field goal to put Bishop Fenwick ahead, 26-23. However, just after getting the ball back, Mordas heard something out of the corner of his ear with the game hanging in the balance. It was Higgins, emphatically calling for his teammate as defenders scrambled to gain position.
“I’m wide open!”
Mordas didn’t miss the opportunity. He fired a lob into the flat for the wideout, and Higgins was able to jog to paydirt for the winning 10-yard touchdown reception. His teammates then stormed the field in pursuit.