It was a thrilling game, but not a happy ending for John Jay and new head coach Joe Candarelli as the Wolves battled into overtime against Yorktown in the season opener.
John Jay hosted rival Yorktown hoping to kick off the Candarelli era with a victory, but it was the Huskers celebrating at the end with a 34-27 victory in overtime.
Both teams had their chances and made big plays and mistakes as the two rivals elected to play a “week zero” game to kick off the season before the full Section 1 schedule gets underway this weekend.
They put on a show for the fans with a thrilling finish, and even though it was not the finish they wanted, Candarelli feels it was a good start to what can be a good season for the Wolves.
“A heartbreaking way to end, but I’m proud of the way our kids battled tonight,” said Candarelli. “It was a great game. We played tough. It was very sloppy on both sides, a bit of that was being a week zero game and an early start. As coaches, we have to get back on the drawing board and figure it out and get back at it.”
It started off well for John Jay on the Wolves first offensive play of the game as quarterback Craig Galea connected with Christian Shapiro on a screen pass, and Shapiro carried it all the way to the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 John Jay lead.
Yorktown then earned a safety on a muffed punt attempt by John Jay to cut the lead down to 7-2, but the John Jay defense held strong and the Wolves offense was right back on the attack.
John Jay drove upfield from its own 10-yard line with Galea connecting with Austin Zaccagnino on a pair of long passes to move the ball inside the Yorktown 10-yard line. The Wolves got it down to the one-yard line, but the Huskers defense came through with a goal-line stand to keep John Jay out of the end zone.
Yorktown then took its first lead with a trick play just before the half for a 70-yard touchdown pass as the Huskers took an 8-7 lead into halftime.
John Jay took the lead on its first possession of the second half as Galea connected with Shapiro for a five-yard touchdown pass to give the Wolves a 13-8 lead.
Michael Mendicino came up with an interception to stop the Huskers on their ensuing possession. Then John Jay marched right down the field once again, with Galea connecting with Zaccagnino on a 12-yard touchdown pass to make the score 19-8 with 3:05 left in the third quarter.
While John Jay dominated the third quarter, Yorktown grabbed the momentum in the fourth quarter as the Huskers scored to cut the lead down to 19-14 and then scored again on their next possession to take a 20-19 lead.
Yorktown was driving once again, but John Jay came up with a fumble recovery to stop the drive at the Wolves’ 12-yard line.
On the next play, Galea connected with Jack Marcogliese for an 88-yard touchdown catch, and a two-point pass conversion to Zaccagnino gave John Jay at 27-20 lead.
However, the Huskers answered once again driving down to score with 1:01 left to play to tie it up at 27-27 and force overtime.
Yorktown got the ball first in overtime and scored to take the lead, and then John Jay was stopped inches short of a first down on its attempt as the Huskers prevailed with the 34-27 victory.
Despite the final score, there were several positives on the field for John Jay and Candarelli knows what his team is capable of doing.
“We left some opportunities on the board. We got the ball down to the one, that was tough,” he said. Also, “coming out of the time out, we told them the trick play was coming and they still hit it, so that was tough. That’s how you lose football games, but the kids played hard.”
He continued, “We’ve got some explosive athletes and they made some big plays. Shapiro ran the ball really well, and Zaccagnino had a good game with a lot of big plays. Cameron Wierl and our linebackers played really well on defense. We made big plays, we just need to be consistent.”
It was a tough way to finish, and John Jay will face a tough test this week as the Wolves get ready to face defending Section 1 champion and state finalist Somers on the road today, Friday, Sept. 9.
Candarelli feels these early tests will help the Wolves prepare for a big finish when it counts in late October.
“Tonight was a tough one,” he said after the opening loss. “Chasing winning, you can do everything right and still lose. We came up short, but mentally, we’ll get right back after it and I feel this team will have a great season.”
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