Yorktown wins thriller over Mt. Vernon
YORKTOWN — It has become a theme for Yorktown football: lacrosse players under center.
In 2007, it was John Froats, now a midfielder at Wesleyan. In 2008, it was Brendan Brunelle, now a defenseman at Marist. In 2009 and 2010, it was Justin Mabus, now a midfielder at Towswon.
So, what's the common denominator with all three of these laxer/football players? Winning. The Huskers have gone 25-11 over the four-year stretch, even hanging with Class AA big dogs like New Rochelle, which narrowly defeated them in last year's sectional semifinals.
Needless to say, Yorktown coach Mike Rescigno has continued to follow the formula in 2011. And, like in the past, it turned out to be a winning move.
Junior Nick Mariano, an all-section attackman, led the Huskers (1-0) to a thrilling 21-14 victory over visiting Mount Vernon (0-1) on Saturday evening. The first-year starter drove 51 yards in one minute and 19 seconds, connecting with Frankie Fusco on an 18-yard pass and then hitting tight end Christian Dedvukaj from 17 yards out for the game-winning touchdown with 52 seconds left in regulation. He found Dedkuvaj again for the ensuing 2-point conversion.
“(Mariano) is a first-year starter and looks like a third-year vet,” said Rescigno, who named Mariano the starter at the Lakeland scrimmage on September 3. “He went from a quarterback battle to a field general to a captain. He owns it out there. He's a hell of an athlete. He's a hell of a quarterback. He's going to be a good one.”
Mariano, who completed 7 of 14 passes for 89 yards and rushed for 27 yards on five carries, was admittedly nervous before the game. But he quickly overcame it.
“I've been playing lacrosse for two years on varsity, so those nerves just turned into energy for me,” he said.
In terms of the game-winning play, Mariano pointed toward a switch in Yorktown's formation, which sent the inside guy toward the corner.
“That just ended up working in our favor,” he said.
Of course, it didn't hurt that Dedvukaj made the catch of a lifetime, extending his left hand fully to cradle the ball and push it back against his chest. For a fleeting second, it looked like Dallas Clark had put on a Huskers uniform.
“Honestly, I just tried to speed up, stuck one hand out and I got a little lucky,” said Dedvukaj, who caught three balls for 36 yards.
And it wasn't the only time Lady luck was on Yorktown and Dedvukaj's side
Trailing 14-7 with four minutes left in regulation, Mariano found Dedvukaj over the middle for a 20-yard gain. As Dedvukaj fought for more yards, the ball was dislodged and sent floating forward. Senior wide receiver Jesse Jewell played the role of Johnny on the spot, cradling the ball and diving forward to the Mount Vernon 7-yard line.
It was eerily reminiscent of last year's fumblerooski against White Plains in the Section 1 Class AA quarterfinals, which saw Brandon Trager scoop up a Justin Mabus fumble and run for a touchdown.
“Honestly, I'm lucky,” Dedvukaj said, laughing. “I pray before the game, so I guess I have God on my side.”
Yorktown scored two plays later, as sophomore fullback Connor Vercruysse barreled in from 3 yards out to trim Mount Vernon's lead to 14-13 with 2:54 left in the fourth quarter. But the Huskers missed the ensuing extra-point, creating a difficult decision for Rescigno.
“It was crunch time for me as far as the decision-making,” Rescigno said. “I could go for an onside kick or put it on the defense. I put the headset down and had to think about it and clear my head. Rather than put it to something we practice once every so often during the week — as far as the onside hands team — I figure we put it on the defense and give them a chance to make a name for themselves. Frankly, that's been the question mark. And they did. I'm not sure if every coach in the section would have done it, but it worked out.”
The Huskers' defense forced Mount Vernon into a three-and-out, setting up Mariano-to-Dedvukaj for the win.
“We had about 25 yards to go and we were like, 'This is the biggest 25 yards of our season,'” Dedvukaj said of the final drive. “We had been preparing two months for this game. It has just been blood, sweat and tears. When we got to that drive, it was just awesome. I can't explain it right now.”
Mount Vernon's downfall was its feast-or-famine offense. The Knights failed to sustain drives late in the game, allowing Yorktown to put up 14 points over the final two minutes and 54 seconds of regulation.
Quarterback Mark Mitchell still managed to impress, rushing for a dazzling 50-yard touchdown through the heart of Yorktown's defense to put the Knights up 14-7 with 2:15 left in the third quarter. He also hooked up with tight end Kareem Campbell on a 25-yard touchdown pass, which gave Mount Vernon a 7-0 lead with 3:14 left in the first quarter.
Surprisingly, the Knights got the better of Yorktown's vaunted offensive line. Powered by the 6-4, 290-pound Lance McDowdell, Mount Vernon's defense brought the ruckus, laying devastating hit after hit on Yorktown's smaller skill players.
“All preseason our offensive and defensive lines were getting too much credit,” Rescigno said. “It's nice to get credit — as long as you back it up — but (Mount Vernon) had a couple of guys up front that were giving us hell; there's no question about it — and against some of our better players. My hats off to them. They were giving us fits. I was trying to figure out how to get around McDowdell, who is an absolute animal chasing down players from the backside. At his size, he moves well.”
Yorktown managed to break through the Knights' wall of defense with 2:09 left in the first half, as senior fullback David Prindilus scampered for a 23-yard touchdown up the gut, evening the score at 7-7 heading into the break.
Overall, the Huskers used six different backs in Gzim Lajqi (five carries, 41 yards), Prindilus (six carries, 40 yards), Frankie Fusco (five carries, 36 yards), Vercruysse (one carry, 4 yards), Brian Quigley (one carry, three yards) and Michael Meyreles (six carries, 18 yards). The heavy rotation was due to cramping and the fact Yorktown doesn't really have a lead horse …. yet.
“I'm looking for guys to step up,” Rescigno said. “We were reaching at times trying to figure who our go-to guy is going to be. I'm OK with that as long as we are getting a team effort. Last year at this point our team effort fell short at Mahopac and they had to learn what they were made of under a loss, which is hard to do sometimes.”
The Huskers will look to make it two wins in a row as they travel to Arlington (1-0) in Week 2. Mt. Vernon continues its tough early season schedule with a matchup against powerhouse New Rochelle.
Email Isaac Cass at email@example.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass