WOBURN – His right elbow was carefully wrapped in a bulky soft cast, but there was nothing delicate about Rufus Rushins’ game in Friday night’s Division 5 state semifinal.
After watching the last two games from the sideline with a dislocated elbow, Rushins suited up for No. 11 Bishop Fenwick against No. 13 Abington.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound junior’s first carry went for minus-4 yards, but he finished with 21 carries for 152 yards and two touchdowns, and he can keep on running to Gillette Stadium.
Bishop Fenwick (11-0) scored 35 unanswered points to take down Abington, 35-8, securing a spot in the Division 5 state championship on Dec. 7 against the winner of Saturday’s game between Hoosac Valley and Northbridge.
“I knew [the soft cast] was there, but when I was carrying the ball, I just run,” Rushins said. “I don’t feel any pain, I just go hard every game.”
Rushins was hoping to play last week against Northeast, but his doctor and coaches told him he’d be better off waiting one more week. He was chomping at the bit on Friday night, but it took him a few carries to regain his usual form.
“Rufus had a little bit of rust early, but he certainly brushed it off and had a great game,” said Fenwick coach Dave Woods. “I don’t think there was any holding him back tonight.”
Abington (9-2) came out firing on defense, forcing a punt and a turnover on downs on Fenwick’s first two possessions.
The Green Wave took advantage when Bryan Dwyer hit Vinny Picardi on a 20-yard touchdown pass for the 8-0 lead.
But the Crusaders came right back, scoring 29 seconds later on Rushins’ first touchdown of the night, a 38-yard run.
Midway through the second quarter, Kevin Hannon recovered a fumble by Dwyer, the third turnover Fenwick forced in the half, and the Crusaders finally capitalized.
After Rushins and senior quarterback Nick Bona traded carries down to the 5-yard line, David Hurley ran in a touchdown and caught the 2-point pass for a 14-8 lead just before the end of the half.
“That score at the end of the half was huge,” Woods said.
On the first drive of the second half, Rushins turned the tables and set the lead block for Bona on a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 21-8.
Then Bishop Fenwick’s defense took over, forcing two straight turnovers on downs, mixed in with a 2-yard TD from Rushins.
The final nail in the coffin came when Bona intercepted Dwyer and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown with less than a minute left in the game.
“That’s the best defense, that was unbelievable,” Woods said. “They got after it. That was a heck of a football team, Abington, they played a physical, tough game.”
Seniors Eric Razney and Charlie Maistrellis also added interceptions for Fenwick.
“We’re just as tough as they are, they just played very well,” said Abington coach Jim Kelliher. “We just didn’t respond like we would have liked. We made some mental mistakes.”