2-2 for the Wolves
On Saturday, September 24, John Jay celebrated Homecoming and only one quarter in, Sleepy Hollow looked like they were getting a very quick send off. The Wolves took a 21-0 lead, and the bleachers were rocking. But the Horsemen wouldn’t go away, and Cesar Rosario’s 40 yard field goal to close the half at 28-17 gave quarterback Craig Galea pause. “I was worried,” the senior admitted.
Even so, the Wolves didn’t leave the outcome up in the air for very long. Letting the parade pass, the boys hit the trifecta again in the third quarter, and another 21 unanswered points made their 56-39 victory a mere formality.
The game began on the other side of the ball, though. The defense dispatched the Horseman on three downs, and the offense saddled up from the 45. A holding penalty setting John Jay back, they put the reins in the hands of Christian Shapiro.
Four runs gobbling up the necessary yardage, play calls to Shapiro aren’t necessarily the most exciting for a passer like Galea. The quarterback makes do nonetheless. “It’s not boring when he busts 40 yards and scores a touchdown,” Galea clarified.
Of course, the tall senior is never left out for long. After hitting Shapiro on a nine yard screen, Galea dumped the ball over the middle for Michael Mendicino, and he had a 29 yard touchdown reception at 7:37.
The defense then did themselves one better. Tyler Mahood dropped back for a screen, and Shapiro’s great read was a real eye opener. “I saw it right away,” said Shapiro, and his 35 yard pick six gave John Jay a 14-0 lead at 5:56.
Sleepy Hollow still had no answer on their next possession, so John Jay continued to school the visitors. A screen to Austin Zaccagnino got the drive past midfield, and Shapiro bounced outside for a 37 yard run to the nine.
First and goal, Galea tossed right for Luca Duva, and his cut inside for a 21-0 lead was music to Christian Herlihy’s ears. “I can’t describe the feeling. It’s just awesome,” said the linemen of seeing his teammates follow the lead of the big men up front.
On the other hand, Sleepy Hollow now started to bring out their leading men. Brayden Richardson took the kickoff to midfield, and from there, the Horsemen stayed grounded. Five runs set them up at the 12, and Mahood’s option flip got Richardson into the end zone with 11:54 left in the half.
A defensive stop by Sleepy Hollow also bode well, and on their subsequent possession, so did another option that got Richardson to midfield. However, Sleepy Hollow fumbled, and Sid Goldberg recovered at 9:49.
Not giving the Horsemen any time to ponder the miscue, Galea dropped back, and a wide open Zaccagnino settled under the ball. The crowd ready to erupt, the receiver could not hold on to the sure TD. “I’m still mad,” he lamented.
But Zaccagnino was all alone in that emotion. “I told him, I’m coming back to you no matter what,” Galea consoled his receiver.
The real prize came next, though. Galea threw left, and Shapiro didn’t stop until he reached the end zone 47 yards later.
Less than nine minutes left, the 28-7 deficit didn’t have Sleepy Hollow packing it in. A Justin Soto 14 yard run on third and ten kept the drive alive, and a 14 yard screen to Giuliano Federici put the ball at the 21. Three keepers by Mahood got the ball to the one, and Wibel Maria punched in from there to cut the lead in half at 1:26.
Choosing to press on, John Jay drove to the Sleepy Hollow 20, but Mathias Baez’s 37 field goal fell short. So after Mahood connected with Federico for a 56 yard completion to the 24, Rosario showed how it was done.
The long kick slicing through the night, Zaccagnino had a different take than his quarterback. “We weren’t really concerned,” he said, “and we came out confident.”
Two plays to prove the point, Zaccagnino caught Galea’s second down pass for a 78 yard touchdown reception. Sleepy Hollow had no reply this time, and John Jay continued to brim. Shapiro’s 36 yard run had the Wolves knocking again from the 31, and Zaccagnino picked the lock with a 29 yard reception for a 42-17 advantage.
The John Jay offense didn’t wait long to get back on the field either. Sleepy Hollow fumbled on first down from the 25, and Shapiro’s run outside set up Zaccagnino for a six yard TD reception on the near sideline.
The rest was just filler, and the synergy bursting at the seams, the professional ranks would usually have the quarterback taking his offensive line out to dinner. So Herlihy mused the possibility. “He hasn’t yet but we’re waiting,” the junior joked.
But in all seriousness, the lineman is thrilled with the turnaround, and the adjustment is easy to pinpoint. “It was relationships that we needed to work on. That’s what we’ve been building, and I think we’re going to keep going from there,” he concluded.
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