BOSTON –- It was an upset 127 years in the making.
Boston English quarterback Emmanuel Almonte scrambled for what seemed like an eternity before finally firing a 7-yard touchdown pass to Dejour Releford as time expired to finish one of the most improbable comebacks in the rivalry’s 127-year history as English beat Boston Latin, 14-12, Thursday at Harvard Stadium. It was only the third win for English over Latin since 1967.
The Releford touchdown capped a wild 11-play, 78-yard drive for the Eagles that began after the English defense forced a three-and-out for Latin with 4:33 remaining and the Wolfpack clinging to a 12-8 lead.
English kept the drive alive with a six-yard pass to tight end Ruben Pena-Sanchez on 4th and 5. Facing a 3rd and 8 later in the drive, Almonte finished off a length scramble in the back field, finding Releford at the 46-yard line with less than two minutes to play.
After back-to-back six-yard completions to Pena-Sanchez, it appeared any chance of a comeback might be over when the Eagles were whistled for holding, setting up a 1st and 10 from the 44 with only 18 seconds left.
That’s when English turned to a much-practiced but never used play to keep the game alive. From the shotgun, Almonte fired a lateral pass to Releford on the right side who, in turn, floated a 37-yard pass to Jerome Penn with four seconds left.
With the clock stopping for the first down and a clock adjustment from the referee that put two seconds back on the clock (it originally stopped with two seconds left), English had the chance to line up and snap the game’s final play as the clock expired.
And that led to a catch that will be remembered forever in the history of the nation’s longest continuous high school football rivalry.
“I saw Emmanuel [Almonte] scrambling, so I thought it would be a good idea to go back to him,” said Releford. “The play was originally to the right but I came back and he found me for the touchdown [inside the left pylon].”
The touchdown sparked a celebration that included a Gatorade dump on English’s first-year head coach Brian Vaughan, on a day where the temperature with wind chill was 4 degrees.
“It’s not cold. This is great football weather,” joked Vaughan, standing soaking on the sideline after the game. “The kids made some plays down the stretch.
“It’s huge to win this. It’s a great step in where we want to put the program.”
While the memorable play may be the game-ending touchdown, the flee-flicker on the penultimate play may have been the drive’s most important.
“We ran the double flee-flicker pass, something we had been working on all year,” said Vaughan, who played his college football at Northeastern for Barry Gallup before coaching for 10 years at Lynn English. “We never ran [the play] ‘til today.
“Then to come back the next play, [Almonte] rolls out to [Releford], it’s unbelievable.”
Lost in the success of the final drive was the incredible play of the English defense. With Latin averaging 49 points against English in the last three meeting, the Eagles defense held the Wolfpack to 12 points and just 157 total yards on the day.
“The defensive effort that we put [forward] today, everybody on the team gave 100 percent,” said freshman Mateo Calloway,” who defensive coach Tom Lamb said called every defensive play. “We worked the whole year to do this and we finally accomplished our dreams.”
In a scoreless first half, both teams had trouble moving the ball, in part due to both teams attempting to throw the ball against a swirling wind. English finished the half with just 33 total yards to Latin’s 36.
In the third, the Wolfpack finally broke through. After a perfectly placed 23-yard pass into the wind from Latin quarterback Roy Banham to Jack O’Toole, running back Justin Springle punched in a 3-yard touchdown with 3:35 remaining in the quarter.
On the two point conversion Almonte, playing both sides of the ball, broke through the line to stop Banham, a play that turned out to be key given the final score.
English responded immediately with a six-play, 47-yard drive that took just 2:22 capped off by a 6-yard run by backup running back Darius Boodoosingh, in for Jodarnio Seide who was injured midway through the drive. Almonte found room on a keeper for the conversion to give English an 8-6 lead with 57 seconds remaining in the third.
The Wolfpack put together a quick drive themselves and finished off a 45-yard drive with an 14-yard pass from Banham to O’Toole to put the Wolfpack ahead 12-8, seemingly on their way to their 16th straight win over their rivals.
But the after turning the ball over on downs, the English defense posted a key stop, forcing Latin to punt with 4:33 left allowing Almonte and Releford to work their magic in the memorable final drive.
While the loss for Latin may sting, it may be for the best in a rivalry that had become lopsided. Latin still holds a 76-38-13 advantage in the all-time series over English.
“It was a tough match that went back and forth and must have been a terrific game for the spectators to watch,” said Boston Latin assistant coach Gerry Bilodeau speaking for head coach John McDonough, who didn’t want to talk postgame. “We had a couple of opportunities to stop them, we didn’t make the plays and [English] made the plays at the end. That was the tale of what it was.”
GAME NOTES: This year’s edition of the Latin-English rivalry was designated as part of the Great American Rivalry Series, sponsored by the U.S. Marines. It is one of five Thanksgiving Day games to receive this designation. As part of the series, a game MVP medal was presented to English quarterback Emmanuel Almonte. Almonte finished the game 8-for-20 for 48 yards, 60 yards rushing on 12 carries, punched in a two-point conversion in the third quarter and made a key defensive play stopping Latin on a conversation attempt of its own. . . .First-year English coach Brian Vaughan is halfway to the total number of wins over Latin by one of his most legendary predecessors, Keith Parker. Parker, who coached from 1980 through 2009 and is a member of the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, beat Latin just twice – in 1981 and 1997.