Chaminade climbs past Mountaineers
In only its third game of the season, Chaminade has already managed to double its win total from all of last year. But it was far from easy as they won a nailbiter that wouldn't be decided until the very last minutes of the game.
Mount St. Michael gave the Flyers everything they could handle, but would ultimately fall 21-20 Saturday afternoon in The Bronx.
"They didn't make it easy on us at all," said a relieved Chaminade coach Steven Boyd, "That's Mount, they always play this way. I give them a tremendous amount of credit. We were just fortunate enough that we made the plays that led us to a win."
The first score of the game wouldn't come until halfway through the second quarter after Mountaineers quarterback Najae Brown hit a streaking Bruce Parker Jr. for a huge gain and his first completion of the game. Running back Kenneth Acquah finished the drive by muscling his way into the end zone with 2:22 left on the clock. Mount did not convert on the extra point though, a sticking point that may have changed the outcome of the game.
"I don't think it comes down to the extra point at the end. Obviously we missed it, but it comes down to what we did in the first half," said Mountaineers coach Mario Valentini resolutely. "Yes we went up by six, but we still lost it in the first half. We were inside the 20-yard line at least three times and we came away with no points and that came back to bite us more that any extra point."
Both teams headed into the locker room with very little in the way of offense as Mount held serve with its 6-0 edge.
Early in the second half, Chaminade began using a hurry-up offense that finally allowed it to move the chains against Mount's fatiguing defense, which had yet to allow any points on the season. It also helped the Flyers that the Mountaineers were turnover-prone throughout, allowing Chaminade's defense to make three fumble recoveries, an interception, and two sacks.
"We got some momentum on offense and then our defense created some turnovers. Our field position was good and that helped," Boyd said. "We were able to do some positive things, but give them credit, they never stopped. I mean this could have went either way."
Chaminade wide receiver Thomas Zenker was integral to the Flyers first points, catching their first reception of the game and following it up with a run reversal down the sidelines to the end zone off a cleverly designed pitch. The Flyers converted on the extra point making the score 7-6 with :49 seconds to go in the third.
Parker Jr. and the Mountaineers responded with Brown hitting him on a deep ball for a touchdown at the 6:58 mark of the fourth.
Following a botched kickoff that had to be replayed, running back John Desepoli put his mark on the game, returning the kick 90 yards for a touchdown after making a quick cut and finding space up the sideline.
"I just saw daylight and kept going with it. The blocks were there and it just felt amazing," said a still out of breath Desepoli. " I just wanted to run off the field and go home and be like, that's the game. But of course, there was still more game to be played."
Once again, Parker was the answer, breaking three tackles for a 25-yard run and then catching yet another strike from Brown. Brown ran in the ball for the touchdown at the 4:20 mark, but the extra point would be wide left, leaving the score at 21-20.
"At half time coach told us to pick it up," Parker said. "I went to him and I told him I need the ball in my hand because I'll be able to put us in the end zone. So that's what he did and I was able to succeed."
Unfortunately for Mount St. Michael (1-1), there wouldn't be enough time for more Parker magic as they would fall short by a point.
"You gotta take what the other team is giving you and we were running out of time. We had to start doing some things that they were giving us. Bruce made some great plays and some great catches," said Valentini. "We gave up the long kick return and that hurt us but we still fought back. Again, I think it comes down to not making the plays in the first half when we had the opportunities to on offense."
The win is the second for Chaminade (2-1) on the season, no doubt a welcome sight following last season's abysmal 1-9 record.
"It's such a better start this season. I know our offense has changed. Coach Boyd has been focusing more on defense and I'd like to say that our strong point is our defense. That's what has gotten us rolling this year," Desepoli said. "We started off a lot better than last year and we just hope to take it far. We keep working hard, that's really what it is. We just hope that this is a sign of things to come."