With only thirty minutes remaining in their high school football careers, the players on the South squad in the Section 1 Exceptional Senior Bowl huddled into the end zone at Mahopac High School to hear one more halftime speech.
Down 6-0, South’s offense sputtered throughout the first half. Long drives stalled twice because of interceptions, and South needed to fight through it.
“Our offense wasn’t playing great, but our defense was playing phenomenal,” Scarsdale quarterback Andrew Verboys Jr. said. “We just kept playing. We’re all seniors on this team so we wanted to end our last 30 minutes, and make it special.”
Verboys spearheaded South’s 20-point second half with two rushing touchdowns on the way to offensive Most Value Player honors in a 20-9 win against the seniors from North in the on Sunday afternoon.
“This is pretty cool,” said Verboys. “Everybody on this team is a good player, and they’re all good kids. We all want to win. We’re all competitors. It’s a great feeling to win our last game.”
South scored its first touchdown of the game on a 1-yard dive by Nyack’s Derwohn Bartley.
North answered on the ensuing drive with a go-ahead 21-yard field goal by Briarcliff’s Matt Pasternak, which was set up by a pair of John Jay Cross River teammates. Tyler Keech and Jack Lambert connected on two passes totaling 67 yards. The second play was the pair’s final play together and went for 49 yards to set Pasternak up for the chip shot field goal.
“It was great to have Joe (Kells) and Jack with me,” said Keech. “It increased our time together. Just to have one last game with them, it meant a lot.”
After drives with several possessions, South pinned North at the one-yard line with a punt and its defense was able to force a fumble, setting up the first of Veboys’ two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Needing to throw to pull off a late-game comeback, North was unable to get much off because of the defensive pressure South consistently brought. Woodlands’ Da’Sean Downey led the charge with three sacks and was named South’s defensive MVP.
“To go up against the biggest line that I ever faced in my life, because the North team has some big kids, it was just a great experience,” Downey said.
South’s defensive line led to a game-ending interception by Clarkstown North’s Billy DeLay.
Poughkeepsie’s D’Andre Smith was the star of the first half. Playing defense for the first time in more than a year, Smith ended two of South’s drives with interceptions.
“Last year as a junior I was pretty much a defensive player, and I carried over and still worked on my defense this season,” said Smith, who was named the defensive MVP for North. “It feels great to be out here and play defense again. I miss playing defense and hitting.”
Pasternak, who made two field goals, was named offensive MVP for North.
Though one team had to come out on the losing end Sunday afternoon, players were still grateful for the opportunity to lace their cleats up one last time.
“It’s been incredible to come out and have one more game,” said Keech. “I got to make new friends. It was a great experience to come out and play one last time.”