LYNN – Trailing by two touchdowns late in the third quarter Friday night against Winthrop, St. Mary’s of Lynn teammates bombarded freshman Maxwell Parent with words of encouragement when he fumbled in the red zone.
By the time Parent ran in his second touchdown of the fourth quarter to come back and tie the game with 2:14 left to play, though, they didn’t need to say a word to him as he prepared to kick the go-ahead extra-point attempt.
He nailed it, capping off 15 unanswered points the defending Div. 6 state champion Spartans (2-0) used to complete a thrilling 15-14 comeback win over the Vikings (1-1) in nonleague action. Defense played a massive role, forcing four signature turnovers and a fourth-quarter safety to set up the game-winning score.
The win is the 100th for St. Mary’s head coach Sean Driscoll.
“I knew we always had it in us,” Parent said. “We (knew) what we needed to do, and we just needed to execute. And we (knew) we could do it.”
“You saw a little test of wills, both ways,” Driscoll added. “There’s a resiliency with this football team, which is good. We’re excited.”
Winthrop’s Nick Cappuccio (140 total yards, TD), Robert Rich (65 rushing yards) and George Galuris (46 rushing yards) were terrors on the ground at times, helping move the ball deep into St. Mary’s territory on just about every possession in the first three quarters.
Pair that with a stingy defensive effort to keep the Spartans off the board in the meantime, and it seemed the Vikings had full control over the game, especially when Parent fumbled the ball in a 14-0 game with under three minutes left in the third.
But just as the defense did to force two Winthrop turnovers-on-downs in the red zone in the first half, St. Mary’s battled.
Cappuccio ran for a 32-yard gain to get to midfield, only for the Spartans to recover a fumble on the next play. Parent (59 rushing yards) ran in a 7-yard score to cap off a seven-play drive, and a failed conversion set the deficit at 14-6 with 11:09 to play.
On the ensuing drive, Chris Marks’ sack forced Winthrop to punt from its own 23. A high snap sent the punter through the back of the end zone for a safety, and a Vikings’ personal foul on the kick return put St. Mary’s on the Winthrop 26 trailing just 14-8 with 5:22 left.
“Once we settled into the game, we thought we had a good idea of what they wanted to do and what their strengths were, and I thought we took that away a little bit in the second half,” Driscoll said. “First half, we struggled with some tackling, but other than that our defense played phenomenal.”
Winthrop’s defense didn’t make it easy from there, twice forcing the Spartans to convert on fourth down as St. Mary’s was 3-for-9 on third down in the game. Yaniel Belliard connected with Nicholas Marks on fourth-and-long to keep the comeback alive, and Parent just barely crossed the goal line on fourth-and-inches for the 1-yard TD run that tied the game.
“I knew I had to punch it in (to tie it),” Parent said. “I had to use all the force in my body that my dad gave me, that my mom gave me.”
The offense was resilient to get the job done, but countless defensive plays throughout kept St. Mary’s in the game. That included Tyler Guy’s tackle on fourth down at the Spartans’ 1-yard-line to just barely prevent Winthrop from scoring another touchdown before the break.
“The tackle down at the goal line (was clutch),” Driscoll said. “The one-on-one plays, in high school football, it comes down to those one-on-one plays. We were fortunate tonight to be in the game. Once we felt we had some momentum, we kind of took it over in the fourth quarter.”