Zach attack: Kearney paces Xaverian
MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Monroe-Woodbury’s Ryan Spelman was the quarterback with the experience, the reputation and the gaudy numbers entering Saturday afternoon’s showdown again Xaverian in a battle of MSG Varsity Tri-state Top 25 teams at Faller Field.
But it was Zach Kearney, in his first game behind center since the seventh grade, who guided his team to victory, throwing for a touchdown and rushing for three more as No. 16 Xaverian rallied to beat No. 19 Monroe-Woodbury, 32-21.
“It was everything we expected,” Xaverian coach Joe DeSiena said of Kearney, a starting running back last year. “He threatened the defense, made all the completions we asked him to make. I have no problem with the way he played. He’s going to learn from his mistakes."
Kearney threw an early interception, one of two turnovers in the first quarter for the Clippers. But he ended up going 17-of-21 for 170 yards, throwing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Sean Binckes. He also had 20 carries for 107 yards and three more TDs.
“At first I was nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Kearney said. “But I just stuck it out, trusted my receivers and we just picked up from there.”
A week ago, Spelman had 563 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns against Warwick. The Clippers were determined not to let Spelman go off against them. In fact, DeSiena mentioned Spelman so much in practice, he joked his team had him in their dreams.
“Our goal today was to stop Spelman,” Xaverian senior defensive tackle Rocky Iannocone said. “We had to stay in gaps. He had a couple of runs, but we eventually stopped him.”
Not before Spelman helped Monroe-Woodbury (1-1) open up a 14-0 lead on a pair of quarterback keepers, the second a 42-yard run with 10:57 left in the second quarter.
“Coach said we just had to answer and that’s what we did,” Kearney said.
And they answered in a big way. Kearney rushed for two scores of his own, the second set up by a big 26-yard pass to Binckes on 3rd-and-12 from the Xaverian 32, to go into the locker room trailing 14-12.
With 6-foot-4 Binckes and 6-foot-2 Jonathan Badyna (six catches for 75 yards), the Clippers had a huge size advantage on the edge and they exploited it.
“I just put it up there and was hoping for the best,” Kearney said. “They made me look real good.”
Kearney gave Xaverian an 18-14 lead with a 25-yard touchdown run with 3:56 left in the third quarter and then passed to Tushaun Plummer, who connected with Tyrel Joseph for a 36-yard score with 1:45 left in the third quarter.
“We saw them biting on the edge a bit and said why not go for a double pass,” Kearney said. “It was wide open.”
Once the smoke cleared, the Clippers scored 32 consecutive points until Spelman’s cosmetic 2-yard keeper with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
“We said this year with our senior group, the goal right from the start was to test this team and prime them for a big game at the end of the year,” DeSiena said. “Our program was ready for a game of this magnitude.”
And it’s a victory Iannocone said should quiet some critics.
“All the detractors say we weren’t going to win this game,” Iannocone said. “I’m just happy we got a win out of this one. It’s definitely a big statement, that we’re here to play, play fast and we’re here to win.”
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