Roxbury grinds out win over Randolph
When two well-matched and well-coached teams lock horns it’s akin to just that, two animals in nature fighting for territory, pushing and pushing to survive.
On a night where the class of 1962 was honored at halftime the football stands were packed with six decades of Gaels’ faithful hoping that Roxbury could push just a little harder than crosstown rival Randolph, their hopes were realized with a well earned 13-7 win.
“We definitely didn’t want to go out like that,” quarterback Kyle young said about the prospect of losing to Randolph for a third-straight year. “It’s bigger because we’re seniors, we’ve been patiently waiting for our time, everyone talks about this game, from the time you’re a little kid it’s all about senior year against Randolph and to win it, I have no words for it.”
Of all things in a game touted as a matchup of two of the best rushing offenses in the state, it would be a Sean Murphy 65-yard touchdown reception that kicked off the scoring. It was Randolph's first play from scrimmage and it put Roxbury immediately behind the eight ball down a touchdown less than 40 seconds into the game.
“They didn’t and that’s what ticked us off,” said Roxbury head coach Cosmo Lorusso when asked how Randolph was able to fool the Gaels on the very first play. “We had a feeling it was coming and we prepared our guys but I think coming off senior night and all the ceremonies we were flat footed, give them a lot credit for executing it.”
Lorusso's team responded after the two sides traded a pair of punts when Donald Panciello took a misdirection handoff on the first play of Roxbury's third drive 71 yards to score the first of two rushing touchdowns on the day. That would be the end of the big plays as both defenses would settle in and dominate the rest of the first half.
The difference in the game as it moved to the second half was the play of running back Donald Panciello, whose 28-carry 203-yard performance on the ground paced the Roxbury offense and limited Randolph’s chances with the ball. As the game wore on it was clear Panciello was the best and most conditioned player on the field, continually carrying Rams defenders as he piled up the yards.
"That kid is relentless every game, you never get anything different from him he works his butt off in practice and you know every time you give it to him he’s going to do something good with it,” said Young. “I knew if we kept giving it to him he’d keep pushing and pushing, tonight it looked like he could carry all 11 guys into the end zone.”
The senior’s second scoring run came on his 23rd touch of the game, an impressive display of power and sheer will as big No. 34 carried three tacklers from the three yard line across the goal with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a horse, he’s one of the best players in the county,” Lorusso said of Panciello. “I’d go to battle with him any day he’s an amazing athlete and a better kid. It’s a huge testament to his work ethic how good he is late in games when everyone else is getting tired he looks fresh.”
As if sensing the need to respond in a game made short by only 12 passing plays, Randolph’s offense hit the field with a renewed sense of urgency.
It took just three plays for James Gangemi and company to push the ball past midfield and after a pass interference by the Gaels in their own endzone, the Rams looked primed to perhaps take the lead after Roxbury missed the previous extra point leaving the score 13-7.
After three cracks at the end zone from the eight came up craps, an illegal chop block penalty pushed the Rams back to the 20. A desperation heave by quarterback John Palmieri was completed but came up just a few yards short of the goal line.
“That was the game right there,” said Lorusso. “Defensively you saw an urgency, there were guys crawling on their hands and knees trying to get at the ball it was just a tremendous effort. If you want to win games like this, games of this magnitude that are a gut check, you have to show character and we sure did tonight.”
In a game devoid of many mistakes -- not a turnover for either side and only a handful of procedure penalties -- both teams emptied the tank and had to feel very proud of their efforts. After Panciello finished his night with a game capping first down to bleed the last seconds off the clock, the sides exchanged heartfelt congratulations for a game well played -- hard and clean like football should be.
It’s not Bosco versus Bergen but there’s something very special, very sincere about this rivalry that makes it one of the best in high school sports. A symphony of Wing T football in front of a capacity crowd, directed by two coaches that leave little room for error and happen to be great friends 364 days a year.
There’s an uncanny familiarity with this rivalry and to Panciello, that’s what makes it great.
“The private school rivalries are fun but those guys are all from different towns, we’ve been playing against one another since second grade, same families playing each other generation after generation and to come out to this atmosphere is something you feel lucky to experience, it’s just great. I know I’ll never forget it.”
Coach Lorusso summed it up best, “It’s a rivalry but there is such a respect, there’s not nastiness to it, it’s certainly a war but in the end everyone is gracious and happy to play in such a great game. It's two great teams made up of a bunch of great kids who love football and who all push one another to get better. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Contact John Quirk at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @QuirkMedia