Good luck charms come in many different forms.
Some of them are worn.
Some of them are hung up somewhere.
And some of them are safely tucked into a pocket.
Shortly before the Shawsheen Tech football team’s Div. 5 semifinal game against Dover Sherborn on Saturday, head coach Al Costabile did a quick inventory check of the contents in his pocket.
One of them?
A Memorial Prayer Photo Card for Mark Donovan, who coached alongside Costabile for more than two decades at Shawsheen.
Donovan died last fall after a long battle with cancer. This is the first full season the Rams have played since Donovan’s death.
“There’s a picture of Dunny by door (of the locker room) and the kids all tap it or kiss their hands and touch it before going onto the field,” Costabile said. “Go into our locker room and there it is. We’ve been doing that since Dunny passed away.”
While the card in Costabile’s pocket, along with a few others including one for former Town Crier sports reporter Michael Ippolito, is a devastating reminder at how precious life can be, it certainly served as inspiration for Costabile and his Rams.
Throughout Saturday’s game against Dover Sherborn, some stuff happened.
Some crazy stuff.
The first two Raider punts?
The first one traveled 16 yards and the second one went just 18 yards.
In the second quarter, a sack by freshman James Tildsley created a fumble that was recovered by sophomore Cullen Walsh. Tildsley said afterward that he just couldn’t believe the clear path to the quarterback that suddenly opened up.
That turnover led to Shawsheen’s first touchdown.
After the Rams took the lead, the Raiders drove right back.
On a fourth-down pass from the Shawsheen 31-yard line, sophomore Sid Tildsley stepped in front of a pass and returned the interception 70 yards for a touchdown.
Just a great read by No. 12?
In the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 14 after a Raider touchdown, the kickoff was fumbled by the Rams and Dover Sherborn recovered at the Ram 14-yard line.
On the very next play from scrimmage, somehow, Dover Sherborn fumbled the snap and Richard Elliott III of Shawsheen recovered.
A fumble on the very next play?
Not that one.
Shawsheen then drove 85 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
“That was Dunny right there,” said junior Austin Malandain. “We all miss him every day, but he’s been watching us since Day 1. We play for him every day.”
“That fumble was because of Dunny,” smiled junior Ryan Copson, who went on to score that game-winning touchdown. “I went up to my whole team right after that play and said ‘Dunny is watching over us.’ He knew that we had to win this game and he was there for us and we did it for him. Now, we’re going to go win the Super Bowl for him too.”
Costabile smiled when asked about his former assistant coach’s ability to create turnovers on Saturday.
“That’s been going on all year,” the coach said. “There’s always someone in the group that says it. We all have it in our minds.”
In the moments following Shawsheen’s quarterfinal victory against Old Rochester Regional a week earlier, assistant coach Sean Hines looked briefly into the sky as the team huddled on the field after the game.
After a few seconds, Hines addressed the team.
Up in the sky, Hines said, was a single star.
Without saying another word, everyone in the postgame huddle had the same thought.
“That star, that’s Dunny,” said senior Mavrick Bourdeau, who played for Donovan as a freshman and a sophomore. “We all say it every game, he’s always watching over us. We miss him every day. He was a great guy. He motivated you to work hard every day.”
A basketball player in the winter, Bourdeau said he used to watch Donovan work with the Ram wrestling team, many of whom are football teammates.
“I saw how much he worked his guys,” Bourdeau said, “and how much he loved them.”
Saturday was a big day for Shawsheen Tech football, on the ground and in the sky.
“Dunny,” Bourdeau added. “I’m sure he was proud.”
“Absolutely,” added Costabile. “Dunny would have loved that game.”