John Jay senior Tyler Paladino had just finished off an impressive night on offense with three touchdowns, but all he wanted to talk about was the John Jay defense.
The Wolves’ defense had something to prove after giving up 52 points in a season opening loss. It was put to the test right before halftime when host Lakeland had a first-and-goal at the John Jay 6-yard line, but the defense stood tall and that set the tone for a dominant third quarter as John Jay cruised to a 41-0 shutout victory on Sept. 17.
“That stop on the goal line was huge. We really needed that and the defense came through and executed,” said Paladino, who rushed for 71 yards on five carries and caught six passes for 63 yards.“The third quarter we just kept pounding the ball on offense and the defense didn’t allow any first downs. We really needed to bounce back and we really performed tonight — it feels great.”
While the final score was a blowout, it certainly was a different game in the first half as both teams struggled to get going on offense.
It was 0-0 in the second quarter when John Jay finally broke through. Facing a third-and-nine from inside John Jay territory, Craig Galea completed a pass to Paladino for a first down at the Lakeland 40-yard line. Four running plays in a row by Chris DiChiara moved the ball down to the 11-yard line, and on the next play Paladino lined up at quarterback and carried it in for the score on an 11-yard keeper to give the Wolves a 6-0 lead.
John Jay was hoping to add more with one last drive before the half, but Lakeland’s Ryan Gallagher came up with an interception and returned it all the way down to the Wolves9-yard line with 28 seconds left in the half.
Now was the time for the defense to make a statement and it did just that. After a pass interference call moved the ball to the 6-yard line, Nick Russo came through for the Wolves as he broke through the line and got to Lakeland QB Steven Dedvukaj who was called for intentional grounding. The defense pushed the Hornets back to the 19-yard line and kept them off the scoreboard heading into halftime.
“The defense came up big,” John Jay coach Jimmy Clark said. “We responded from a tough one last week to get a shutout this week, and to play the way we played and to finish the half like that definitely set the tone for the second half.”
That tone was fast and furious for John Jay as the Wolves came out flying and never let up. On the first play after the kickoff, Galea connected with Christian Shapiro on a 30-yard pass play down to the Lakeland 36-yard line. Four carries by DiChiara moved the ball down to the Hornets’ 8, and two plays later Galea connected with Paladino on a 7-yard TD pass. DiChiara carried it in for the two-point conversion and a 14-0 John Jay lead.
After another three-and-out forced by the John Jay defense, the Wolves marched to the end zone again as Paladino moved in to the QB position and carried two times for two first downs. Galea then completed a 9-yard pass to Paladino, and DiChiara carried it in on a 5-yard TD run for a 20-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for John Jay to score again as Nick Savastano came through on defense with a leaping interception and he returned it all the way to the Lakeland 30-yard line. Five plays later Paladino scored on an 8-yard keeper for a 27-0 lead.
The momentum carried over to the fourth quarter as John Jay drove on its first possession to open the fourth quarter and Dom Savastano broke loose for a 23-yard touchdown carry to make the score 34-0 after Niko Raimondo converted the PAT.
Dom Savastano scored again on a 5-yard keeper to close out the scoring for the Wolves.
DiChiara rushed 20 times for 78 yards while Galea complete 10 of 16 passes for 90 yards.
Overall, it was an impressive performance on both sides of the ball, according to Clark as John Jay improved to 1-1 on the season.
“Our guys just kept to the plan, stuck to the blocking and things started to open up a bit,” Clark said. “I just told the team how proud I am of everyone. The whole second half performance — guys came in and didn’t skip a beat. We moved the ball and played great defense. I’m just really proud of the team effort.”
The Wolves welcome rival Yorktown for Week 3 in their home opener at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 25.