Just when Winthrop High football fans thought they had seen it all in the program’s proud history, senior Ruben Powell wrote a new chapter.
Powell picked up the football after a Saugus field goal attempt in overtime and then raced 92 yards to the end zone to give Winthrop a stunning 13-7 win over the Sachems Friday night at Miller Field.
As Winthrop fans and virtually everyone in the stadium prepared for a second overtime, Powell sought out the football on the field, picked it up, and raced downfield to the end zone.
The referees huddled briefly and determined that Powell had picked the ball up behind the line of scrimmage (1-yard-line), meaning the ball was live – and Powell had known it was – and the original call was correct: Touchdown, Winthrop. Game over.
“I saw the ball on the ground. I picked it up and followed my intuition and my heart,” said Powell moments after his game-winning touchdown. “The coaches are always talking about big plays come from big players and I was just trying to be that player.”
How did Powell know the ball was live?
“The coaches say it every single day,” said Powell. “They drill it right in our heads: if the ball is on the other side of the line of scrimmage, pick it up and go. I just kept going and didn’t look back.”
Head coach Sean Driscoll confirmed that the coaching staff had instructed what to do in that very scenario.
“We go over it so much I think it was ingrained his brain and when he saw the ball, I think he was thinking the same words that are discussed every week,” said Driscoll.
The Viking coach said Powell instinctively knew the play was not over while most of the Saugus High players seemed to be just standing around near the line of scrimmage.
“Everyone sort of stopped playing a little bit except for a couple of players and he just outran them,” said Driscoll. “I’ve never seen a play like that in high school football. I’ve seen an interception brought back for a win in college football, but never anything like this in high school football.”
Former Dorchester High coach Joe Mason said the same thing about a play that will only grow in stature should Winthrop go on from here and win a championship.
“Forty years of coaching high school, I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said Mason.
Powell already had the play of the game locked up with a scintillating 68-yard punt return in the first quarter that allowed Winthrop to tie the game at 7-7.
Saugus had scored on its opening possession but the Winthrop defense would not allow a point the rest of the game.
“Defensively I thought it was our best game of the year,” said Driscoll. “Saugus was the highest-scoring team in our league. But we buckled down and made some outstanding plays. Dave Gallo, Michael Ferrino once again, Tommy Lund – they had big games. And Dan Feeley was his usual excellent self on both sides of the ball.”
Ever-improving quarterback Dylan Driscoll executed a perfectly designed tight end screen play to the right side, delivering the ball to Dave Capone who turned it into a 49-yard gain. Unfortunately, the Vikings were unable to convert on Capone’s offensive gem.
Rubell Powell’s memorable night earned him Item player of the week honors for the North Shore. But what Ruben Powell also did on a cold autumn night will stand the test of time, occupying a revered spot in the annals of Winthrop sports annals alongside such legendary moments as Todd Doherty’s corner shot in the state semifinals at the old Boston Garden game, Steve Staffier’s across-the-field jaunt for a touchdown in the Super Bowl at Foxboro Stadium, Courtney Finn’s 42-point (6 three-pointers) marvel in a state tournament home game, Maureen McManus’s 45-point explosion during a title season, and Lisa Monteleone’s shutout pitching performance in a state championship game in faraway Whitinsville.