HARWICH – When Cape Tech quarterback Robin Crawford was being taken off the field on a stretcher after suffering an injury at the start of the fourth quarter of the Crusaders Sept. 7 game against Bristol-Plymouth, he had one request for his team: “You gotta win this one, boys!” Win it they did, coming away with a 30-28 victory in their 2019 home opener, and what a roller-coaster ride it was.
“It was a wild game, right?” said Cape Tech head coach Chris Leonard. “Sometimes they're wild like that.”
Wild indeed, as the game came down to the wire, ending in a penalty-fueled, pass-filled romp that earned the Crusaders the W, but both teams had to wade through a sluggish start before the intensity picked up.
The Craftsmen scored their first touchdown in the opening quarter, taking a 6-0 lead into the second, with quarters extended from 10 to 12 minutes under new MIAA rules mandating all Massachusetts high school football teams play by National Federation of State High School Association rules, something the Mayflower League, which Cape Tech falls under, is fighting.
By the time halftime rolled around, the Crusaders, thanks to stellar work from Lorvensky “Kiki” Estinvil, Kyle Chase, Josh Meritus, and Claudio Senate, had again regained the lead, extending it from 8-6 at the break to 16-6 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Then, mere minutes into the final frame, Crawford went down, and after a lengthy delay, was taken off the field on a stretcher. The scene obviously rattled Crawford's teammates, something the Craftsmen capitalized on as they staged a late-game rally that saw them narrow Cape Tech's lead from 10 to two points after a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion.
Cape Tech responded with another touchdown from Estinvil, with help from quarterback Leon Lopes, who stepped in and stepped up after Crawford's injury, but the Craftsmen battled back with another TD that brought the score to 22-20 with minutes left in regulation play.
When Bristol-Plymouth recovered an onside kick and converted it into yet another touchdown, fans thought the game was over, but the Crusaders weren't giving up. With Lopes at the helm, the home team embarked on a scoring drive in which Cape Tech got first down boosts via timely penalties against the visitors.
But it was Luke Pineo who clinched the win for the Crusaders. First came Pineo's touchdown on a nice pass from Lopes, followed by a successful two-point conversion from Estinvil. Then, with 41 seconds left in the game, Pineo snagged a pass intended for a Craftsmen receiver at the 21-yard line, effectively ending the game, his teammates erupting into cheers.
In the past, the two teams had a longstanding rivalry at the heart of which is the Tradesman Cup, but, as Leonard said at the end of the game, it had been a while since the teams had played one another and since Cape Tech had won. Now the trophy would be coming back to Tech.
“We haven't beaten them and we haven't played them for a long time so they've had the trophy for a while,” Leonard said. “But it was just a good game overall. It kind of had that emotional up and down. You could see there in the fourth quarter we kind of got down a little bit, but then Luke Pineo and LJ, our backup quarterback coming in after Robin got hurt, completing those three passes down the end zone was nice.”
Leonard gave a huge shoutout to Crawford's efforts from the start of the game until he was injured. He was pleased that his team rallied behind Crawford for the win.
“Once they lost the lead we were just waiting for a spark,” Leonard said. “That's what it was. We caught Luke on that slant, and then there were two penalties on that last drive that really kept us moving forward. Sometimes you just need that little spark. This is a big win for us.”
Along with Crawford, Leonard also gave kudos to Estinvil, Chase and Pineo. Estinvil had 28 carries and 194 yards rushing, while Chase had 10 carries with 95 yards rushing. Pineo had three catches and 50 yards rushing.
With their first game, and victory, of the season in the books, the Crusaders are now setting their sights on Saturday's contest with Monomoy, at Cape Tech with a 1 p.m. start.