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Admirals Put Themselves Back In Football Picture By Beating Jay

By Jack McElduff
Special to HVSR

WICCOPEE – We’re not sure if you can ever call it an upset when bitter rivals Arlington and John Jay high schools meet on the football field, so let’s just say what happened on Saturday in the latest chapter between the two teams was  …. unexpected.

After all, John Jay came in with the hype, with the undefeated league championship from a year ago, with the two-year streak of not having given up more than nine points in a game to any team except New Rochelle, and the talk and lofty aspirations of a Section 1 title.

And Arlington came in with no hype, with questions on offense after having suffered a season-opening loss last week in which the Admirals didn’t score a point, and with no talk of a sectional championship unless it was in a lockerroom with a big ‘A’ on the wall.

So, naturally, in this great rivalry, it had to be this way.

Unexpectedly, but decidedly, Arlington.

The Admirals scored the first 24 points of the game and held off the Patriots, 24-16, in a league matchup that left both teams with 1-1 overall records.

Arlington head coach Mike Morano attributed the win to superior preparation.

“We found a way to focus, and give maximum effort at practice,” Morano said. “When they put everything they have into it, both mentally and physically, our kids have the capability to do some pretty good things.”

Many onlookers expected a dominant John Jay performance based on what went down last week. The Patriots nailed down a gritty victory over always-tough Carmel, while the Admirals couldn’t even register a single score in a 7-0 loss to Spring Valley.

However, Arlington’s performance on Saturday is a good reminder that sample size can be important. That was certainly the case in the first half, when Arlington blazed down the field on two long scoring drives to take a 14-0 lead. Quarterback Kwincey Pease and tailback Richie Finn were the primary ballhandlers for Arlington, as the Admirals’ strong running game tired the Patriots. Morano spoke highly of his offensive contingent.

“I think we found out a little more about what our [offensive] identity is today,” Morano said. “We have some pretty good backs, our quarterback included, so we’re going to start to try to find creative ways to get the ball in everybody’s hands.”

Then, with less than four minutes left until half, Arlington senior receiver/defensive back Ricky Wagner intercepted a pass and took it all the way for a pick-six that sent Arlington into the break up 21-0.

“I’ve been waiting for this since I was eight,” Wagner said in reference to the incredible moment and day.

The second half, however, told a story more were expecting to see. John Jay’s  passing attack finally took flight, as Mahon and his receivers began to settle in against what was becoming a porous Arlington defense. One touchdown drive by the offense and one scoop and score by the defense later, Arlington led just 24-16 and an incredible turn of events appeared on the horizon in Wiccopee.

With three and a half minutes left in regulation, an Arlington fumble gave John Jay the football with plenty of time to reach the end zone and cap the comeback. However, an inspiring defensive performance by the Admirals kept the Patriots at bay. Defensive tackle Connor Price provided the fireworks when he broke through the Jay offensive line and provided a key tackle for loss.

Later in the possession, a fourth-and-22 desperation heave from Mahon was broken up by Wagner and Aston McKenzie, and the Admirals could kneel it from there.

John Jay head coach Tom O’Hare lauded his team’s ability to rally, but noted that for any team, 24 points is a whole lot to come back from.

“We dug a huge hole,” O’Hare said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our effort in the second half…we won the second half, but the problem is it’s a 48-minute game and we dug ourselves too big of a hole.”

According to John Jay receiver Brayden Rossi, the loss stings, but the encouraging fourth-quarter performance will help the team as it moves on.

“It gives us a wake-up call,” Rossi said. “It shows us how if we take a team too lightly, we’re going to come out and we’re going to get punched in the face…obviously, we came back, but again, too little, too late.”


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