PEABODY – Heading into this season, the Wilmington High School Football team already faced an uphill battle. The Wildcats were coming off a 3-8 season, including a real rough patch in the final month-plus.
Head Coach Craig Turner decided to beef up the non-league schedule for this season, hoping that the better competition he faced would benefit the strong nucleus of younger players he has for years to come.
In the first two weeks of the season, the 'Cats were competitive with two teams in higher divisions in Billerica and Woburn, losing both games, but certainly held their own. Now this Friday, may very well be an even bigger test against an outstanding Division 6 opponent in Bishop Fenwick.
The Crusaders are 2-0 with convincing wins over reigning Division 6 Super Bowl Champion and rival to Wilmington, Stoneham, and then over former rival, Hamilton-Wenham. In both games, Fenwick held a whopping 43-7 scoring edge in the second half.
"We had a lot of guys going both ways," said HW head coach Jim Pugh to the Salem News after their 34-7 loss to Fenwick on Friday night. "I think it did wear on us. The guys we had in there stepped up against a (Fenwick) team that's going to be a force to be reckon with."
Dave Woods is the outstanding coach and Athletic Director at Fenwick, who led the 2013 team to a Super Bowl title and after that, returned to the playoffs in all but one season, including losing in the sectional semi-finals last year to Stoneham, who is coached by former WHS head man Bob Almeida.
“That is (going to be) a very tough game," said Turner, after Friday night's loss to Woburn. "They are a very good team. They just beat up on Stoneham last week, and Stoneham is a very good football team, so that is indicative of how good a team Fenwick is. We will go in there and do the best we can. We put together a tough schedule for that reason, to get us ready for the Middlesex League, so hopefully we can bounce back from this and go out there and play well.”
Fenwick has a deep and talented roster. Their defensive linemen are good sized behind the likes of Matt Juneau, Nick Valentin, Dan Richard and Dan McGrath and they held Hamilton-Wenham to just 32 net rushing yards.
Offensively, the team runs out of both the 'Spread' and Wing-T', with junior Tucker Destino lining up as a running back in the spread and as a fullback in the Wing-T. He scored two TDs vs HW. The week one hero was David Cifuentes, who rushed for 112 yards and booted all five PAT kicks against the Spartans.
Quarterback Chrys Wilson likes to throw to Angel Martinez, who is also a lethal punt/kick returner.
Through two games this season, Wilmington has been outscored 45-15, including 27-8 in the second half, which doesn't bode well with Fenwick's strong second halves. Quarterback Tristan Ciampa has completed 53 percent of his attempts for 315 yards, while he also rushed for a team high 84 yards. His favorite target thus far has been senior captain Christian Robarge, who has six catches for 193 yards.
Mike Ippolito contributed to this report.