Like a heavyweight prizefight, CHSFL rivals Chaminade and St. Anthony’s went punch for punch and round for round on Saturday afternoon and when it was all said and done, it was the Friars who were left standing, 24-23 victors in Mineola.
A week after upsetting the No. 6 team in the tri-state at the time Iona Prep, Chaminade found itself in a 17-point hole at home before the first quarter was even half over.
Sophomore Naim Jones had a career day and would get it started for the Friars with a 48-yard touchdown scamper on his first touch of the game and it wouldn’t be long before No. 6 got into the end zone again.
“We executed a perfect counter play and by the time I turned around he was 40 yards down the field,” said Friars quarterback Greg Galligan. “I was so happy for him, what a lights out game, he really stepped up, really proud of him.”
With sophomore sensation Jordan Gowins going down with an ankle injury on his very first touch, the onus was on Jones to carry the load and boy did he ever.
Chaminade would take a safety on its first drive and on the ensuing free kick Jones would find daylight again, eluding and carrying tacklers for a spectacular touchdown return. A fake field goal on the extra point and a perfectly executed two-point play and with only seven minutes in the books it looked like St. Anthony’s might run away and hide.
“Against a lot of teams you would probably expect that up 17 in the first quarter that the game would sort of be over but we knew these guys would fight us hard,” said Jones. “We knew we needed that fast start because they were going to get theirs as well.”
The Flyers got the drive they needed on their next possession, a methodical 14-play series that included a big fourth down conversion that set up Thomas Zenker for a gorgeous 20-yard touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone.
The biggest play of the first half according to Friars coach Rich Reichert came on the following kickoff as Jones would try to make one extra move and exposed the football for a split second, just long enough for Chaminade to strip it lose and pounce on the rolling rock.
“All the momentum changed right there, it became a different game on that play,” said Reichert. “It was an unbelievable football game, an absolute roller coaster ride and a really fun game to be a part of. We know when we come here we are going to have our hands full and today was certainly no different, we knew they’d fight us till the end.”
With the winds of momentum shifted, Chaminade’s offense would roar out on the field and quickly drove deep St. Anthony’s territory. Rob Speranza would eventually bang it home from 3 yards out and just like that it was a game again at 17-14.
After a Friars punt, Chaminade marched right back down the field and looked to be set up to score after Chris Gallic made a beautiful adjustment on a corner route and an acrobatic over-the-shoulder catch to set the Flyers up first and goal.
Two plays later it would be Speranza crashing into the end zone after the junior took a handoff on fourth and goal and plunged over the goal line, but a false start call negated the play and forced Chaminade to kick a field goal and knot the score at 17-all.
After 17 unanswered points by 'Nade, it was time for the Friar offense to respond and Reichert’s group got a hugely important score with just :09 seconds left in the half. Anthony Duggan picked a great time to grab his first touchdown of the season and Galligan an even better time for his first career touchdown throw and the play made it 24-17 at the half, putting big MO squarely back on St. Anthony's side.
“That’s not even in our playbook, we literally made it up before we did it,” Galligan said of possibly the biggest play in St. Anthony’s season. “We literally drew it up on the chalkboard 20 seconds earlier and I just told Duggan to go up and get it. Heck of a way to get the first passing touchdown of your career,” he laughed.
The third quarter would see no scoring as the best opportunity for Chaminade was thwarted by a bad false start penalty when it looked like Speranza had scored his second touchdown of the game. The penalty became a double whammy when Chaminade missed the subsequent field goal attempt and was turned away with no points.
The score would remain 24-17 until with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter and St. Anthony’s on the move, Chaminade's defense would get a huge sack that forced Rich Reichert into a touch decision to kick a 35-yard field goal. When the boot sailed just right of the uprights the door was ajar for a classic finish and that's just what this game provided.
With 1:58 showing on the clock Sean Cerrone and the Flyer offense marched down the field in just three plays, the biggest being a beautifully executed hook and ladder play where Cerrone hit Zanker who pitched it to a streaking Speranza who made it all the way to St. Anthony’s 6 yard line.
Cerrone would hit pay dirt on the next play with a QB keeper and it looked like we were poised for overtime.
Stephen Boyd is not an overtime kind of guy.
In a move reminiscent of last year’s meeting between these two teams, the 13-year NFL vet wasted no time sending his offense back onto the field to try for the win right then and there. But when Speranza came up just short on a dive play over left tackle, the game was all but decided.
“I wasn’t surprised at all by it,” Reichert said of the decision to go for it. “He’s a bold guy, a smart football guy, and he recognized they had a great chance to win the game right there. (Chaminade) is definitely back and he’s a big reason why, they are back to being Chaminade. You can sense they believe it now and that’s great, we want Chaminade to be good it makes this whole thing a lot more fun, we’re happy and lucky to get outta here 2-2.”
After an onside kick was recovered by St. Anthony’s it only took a couple running plays to bleed out the rest of the clock and the Flyers were dealt their first loss of the season. With falling Chaminade 3-1, Iona Prep at 3-1 and Anthony’s getting back to .500 at 2-2 the race for the CHSFL crown promises to be one of the best in the tri-state.
"I’ll remember this game for the rest of my life," said Jones post game. "Having a big game in a 24-23 win at Chaminade, I’ll never forget this, it’s the first time I’ve ever scored two touchdowns in my life and it was when my team really needed it. What a feeling."
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