ARLINGTON — Arlington High's Senior Night proved to be an incredible one for the Winchester High football team. Coming into the game winless, and having been beaten by a combined 98-6 in their previous two games, the Red & Black came to life on offense, getting big performances from several players in a 45-28 upset of Arlington, Friday night at Peirce Field for their first win of the year.
First and foremost for Winchester was senior Derek Gianci, who rushed for 220 yards on 35 carries, scoring four touchdowns on the ground. He also went 2-for-2 as the quarterback, including a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass, and he also made his presence felt on defense with tackles in key situations.
The Red & Black (1-7) scored touchdowns on all seven of its possessions, two of which consisted of one play, and converted on fourth down seven times, five times in the first half alone.
"Obviously I don't know if I expected that kind of offensive production tonight," said Winchester coach Wally Dembowski. "I don't know where this all came from. We had a decent week of practice, but in all of the weeks we've talked, I never expected anything like this."
The tone was set on the opening kickoff. Winchester's Ollie Wickramsinghe sent a diagonal squib kick to the right, and the Spy Ponder return team was slow to react, or thought it was headed out of bounds. Ben Wilson recovered it for the Red & Black, putting them in business at the Arlington 31.
On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Harry Lowenstein (7 for 14, 143 yards) went up top to receiver Thomas Centurelli for a 31 yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead.
While the offense was generally centered around Gianci's running, Lowenstein made several key passes to keep drives rolling along, while throwing two touchdowns with no interceptions.
"We made some plays, and Harry, the young quarterback, made some throws tonight," said Dembowski, of Lowenstein, who had 10 interceptions combined in his previous three starts. "There were no picks tonight and we caught the ball for him. It's like all of a sudden we executed a really good game plan."
The Spy Ponders answered right back to the initial touchdown pass. Taking over at their own 46, wide receiver Marcues Jean-Jacques took a handoff in the backfield, went around left end, and darted down the sideline for a 54-yard score. The missed conversion made it a 7-6 game with 11:31 still left in the first quarter.
The focus was on Gianci on the second drive, except for a fourth and seven at the Winchester 42, which Lowenstein passed to Centurelli (5-91) for 30 yards to the Arlington 28. Eight straight rushes, including a four-yard run on fourth-and-one, led to the second Red & Black touchdown. Gianci went around right end and hurdled a defensive back on his way to the end zone.
After the Spy Ponders turned the ball over on downs at the Winchester 22, early in the second quarter, the Red & Black began its next long march. This one started with an 18-yard Lowenstein completion to Wilson to the 40. Winchester converted one fourth down with a 14-yard pass to Centurelli, and another on a reverse, with Gianci handing off to Wilson for a 13-yard gain to the Arlington 17. On fourth and goal at the four, Gianci took the snap, rolled to his left, and then surprised the defense with a throw to the back of the end zone for Jack Costello and another touchdown.
"Tommy Carr, the offensive coordinator, did a great job," said Dembowski. "He put in a couple of spread formations, and the reverse, and the kids had fun with it during the week in practice. It kind of kept their attention going for the rest of practice."
Arlington got its second touchdown of the first half the same way it got the first, with Jean-Jacques getting around the end and dashing 46 yards for another touchdown and a 19-12 Winchester lead. That is two carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
The Red & Black got the last touchdown of the half with 35 seconds left and was keyed by a 38-yard Lowenstein completion to Centurelli (5-86). The play set Winchester up at the six and Gianci scored his second rushing touchdown on the next play for a 25-12 halftime lead.
It was all Gianci in the second half. In the first drive alone, he had runs of 15 and 23 yards to set up the second Lowenstein touchdown pass to Centurelli, this one for five yards.
The Spy Ponders made their move at this point, scoring touchdowns and getting two-point conversions from Jean-Jacques, with an onsides kick in between, to cut the deficit to three (31-28) on the first play of the fourth quarter.
There was no more funny business on kickoffs after that though, and Gianci scored on runs of 20 yards and 42 yards on Winchester's last two drives, the first touchdown coming with four minutes left. A Wilson interception setup the final touchdown.
"Everything kind of worked tonight, and it was a good feeling" said Dembowski. "When it got to 31-28 we were kind of like, here we go, but they responded awesome, so no complaints here. I'm super-proud of the boys."
Winchester did not qualify for the new state-wide playoffs that begin this weekend but is awaiting its next opponent in a "consolation" round.