By Chris Klingenberg
FITCHBURG -- It's hard to believe St. Bernard's hadn't set foot on a football field since Saturday, but that was exactly the case.
With the team hit hard by illness, the Bernardians prepared for their annual Thanksgiving Eve showdown with North Middlesex by watching film and hitting the weight room.
By the way this one turned out, the hosts certainly got their work in despite the circumstances, as St. Bernard's cruised to a 36-15 victory over the visiting Patriots on a bitterly cold night at the Bernardian Bowl.
"We really tried to focus, because we don't know what the weather is going to be like next week, so we wanted to really come out and challenge them with that," said St. Bernard's head coach Tom Bingham. "We focused a lot on mental toughness this week. We have a bug running through our locker room, so we really haven't been on the field since Saturday."
The hosts wasted little time getting on the board in this one as Domenic Cuevas threw the first of his two touchdowns on his team's first possession when he hooked up with Dominic Valera on a 34-yard scoring strike. The conversion run was no good as St. Bernard's held a 6-0 lead with 4:45 left in the opening quarter.
The Bernardians extended their lead to 14-0 when Cuevas threw a 45-yard touchdown pass, this time to senior Jakai Alexandre. Walter Morales Jr. ran in the conversion. St. Bernard's scored one more time before the half as Cuevas called his own number and sprinted in from 2 yards out.
St. Bernard's received touchdown runs of 8 and 6 yards from Nicolas Mancini and Alexandre, respectively. North Middlesex avoided the shutout on the first play of the fourth quarter when John O'Friel scored a 14-yard rushing touchdown. O'Friel also ran in the conversion to make the score 28-8 at the time. The Patriots final touchdown came from Adam Fournier as he sprinted in from 11 yards out.
St. Bernard's will now play Pope John On Dec. 1 at 9 a.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro in the Division 8 Super Bowl.