UNBEATEN, UNTIED, UNBELIEVABLE (Fitchburg HS)
The 2000 Red Raiders were out to get something in their senior campaign, and perfection was not out of the question. Perfection was wanted, and perfection was achieved.
By Ryan Davenport
Published: Fall 2001
In the preseason, every team is undefeated. Staying that way is the hard part.
When the Fitchburg High School varsity football team gathered for its preseason training camp, coach Ray Cosenza (also a BFS clinician) asked his players what their goals were for 2000. More than a few responded, “Twelve an 0.”
That confidence, strengthened by hard work and some outstanding senior leadership, led the Raiders to their Division I Super Bowl Championship. It was the team’s first return to a Super Bowl since a disappointing 1998 loss at WPI’s Alumni Stadium, in Worcester, Massachusetts. A game in which this year’s current seniors were mere sophomores.
With tears falling down their cheeks and empty looks on their faces, two current Captains of the 2000 squad, quarterback Jason Twomley and tailback Frank McDonald, looked at their coach and promised that they would never feel this way again.
Coach Cosenza recalled, “After the final whistle blew that day, I remember them, both starters in that game, coming up and insuring me they would do everything it took to get back to this game their senior year, and finish what they came to do, Twomley described the loss as ‘heart-breaking,’ and McDonald said it was ‘tough to swallow,’ but he was sure this year’s team would ‘erase his nightmares of that horrid Saturday afternoon.’”
Believing the Dream
It wasn’t just Twomley, McDonald and the other twenty-two seniors who believe this would be done, but Cosenza, felt something special would happen to this group. Following the 28-21 loss to Springfield Cathedral in 1998, Cosenza was quoted as saying, “It hurts now, but in a little while they’ll put it all in perspective and they’ll realize that they have a lot to be proud of. Besides that, this returning squad is not done by any means. You’ll be hearing plenty about this group in the years to come.” And never before had Cosenza been so right.
Working Toward the Goal
Cosenza believed teamwork played a large part in the Raiders’ success. “The kids just worked really well together,” he said. “They cared about each other and worked towards their common goal. Everyone was willing to give the extra effort and that included playing well as a unit, wielding a persistent intensity, and putting the team first.” And when Coach Cosenza says “putting the team first,” this is by no means an exaggeration. Right after the season had ended for the Red and Gray, they were once again back in the weightroom in preparation for the upcoming season. At six a.m., three days a week before school, the team met and worked out. They followed this routine into the summer, during which time they included a running regimen.
In early August, Coach Cosenza made yet another addition to the summer work-out. Cosenza called BFS, and a BFS Clinician soon flew out to Fitchburg and gave a little more inspiration to the already hungry team.
Sticking to the slogan “Be An Eleven!”, there was no excuse for anyone not to be ready for the most intense year of their lives. The Raiders had the talent they needed, and there was no way they were going to let any opportunity for improvement slip by. Day by day, the Raiders found themselves closer and closer to their goal of an undefeated season.
Realizing the Dream
“I don’t think I’ve coached a year here that we haven’t expected to compete and win, and this year nothing changed,” said Cosenza at the beginning of the 2000 season. “I think we have some of the ingredients to contend for a Super Bowl, but it’s way too early for us to say.” Deep down inside, however, Cosenza wanted nothing more than to raise that Super Bowl trophy.
On Saturday, December 2, 2000, Cosenza and his Red Raiders would get that opportunity. Entering the game 11-0, Fitchburg beat Springfield Central, at Worcester State College, to win the Central-Western Division I Super Bowl Championship, and finish the year with a school-record twelve wins.
All the hard work had finally paid off. Twomley and McDonald had followed through with their two-year promise to bring Coach Cosenza and the entire City of Fitchburg that Super Bowl Championship. With their efforts, combined with those of their teammates and outstanding coaching staff, they could now bring closure to the vision of all those who had dreamed of finishing “Twelve and 0”. With their storybook season, they had not only accomplished their goals, but had also become the greatest football team in Fitchburg High School history, a storied tradition of over one hundred years.