By Vin Gallo
Assistant Sports Editor
It was De La Salle against Poly all over again.
Second and nine. The Springfield College football team was planted on their own 44-yard line. The Pride, down 28-21, had endured 55 minutes of grueling attrition against the swift, physically imposing, and nationally ranked St. John Fisher Cardinals.
5:21 remaining in the game. A crowd of 600, whistling boisterously, rang cow bells and mercilessly stomped the steel bleachers. Newly appointed quarterback Steve Comee, stared beyond St. John Fisher’s great wall that was their defensive line, and towards the promise land, the end zone, that lay 56 yards away.
The football was snapped, and the Cardinal defense pursued. Comee dropped back and fired a pass across the middle. The ball sailed towards the prosperous first down marker – before being promptly intercepted by St. John Fisher’s cornerback Alec Mortillaro. A stunning act of defensive execution, drew a chorus of gasps, and halted the Saturday afternoon heroics.
Two plays into the Cardinals’ newly established possession, St. John Fisher quarterback Matt Naton lofted a pass that, for a moment, seemed destined to become his third interception of the day. But Cards wide receiver Mike Collicho (170 yards, two touchdowns), a thorn in Springfield’s side all afternoon, yanked the pass from the jaws of the Springfield defense and danced through the Pride’s defense 54 yards for the back breaking touchdown. With that, St. John Fisher pushed the tally to 35-21, a total that would stand as the final score of the game.
“We talked to the kids all week long, [St. John Fisher] is a good football team, you can’t make mistakes, and there aren’t any moral victories in this game,” said Springfield head coach Mike Cerasuolo. “We tell them all the time [that] we want to win at everything we do [but] unfortunately we didn’t today.”
Though Cerasuolo was proud of the hard fought battle the Pride dished to the Cardinals. “These kids have no regrets,” he said. “They gave everything they had, we just need to clean up some mental mistakes that we’re making. But as far as the effort and the attitude go, we’re going to be alright.”
Despite being held to one touchdown for three quarters by the grip of the St. John Fisher defense, Springfield made its comeback when the Cards defense began to buckle in the closing stanza, and tacked on fourteen in the fourth. But the Cardinals’ offense jumped on the Pride’s defense early, scratching across three touchdowns in the first half.
“We had some penalties that put us behind the chains a few times,” Cerasuolo said. “When you have some assignment mistakes and assignment busts against a good team, they’re able to capitalize on those.”
The Cardinals jumped on the board first, thanks to Naton connecting with St. John’s tight end Shane Ross for a first quarter touchdown. Springfield’s offense responded on a drive fueled by Jordan Wilcox (64 rushing yards), who would leave the game with a right leg injury, and Josh Thomas (84 yards, one touchdown). Comee concluded the rally by rushing the ball into the end zone to tie the score at seven. Though this would be as close as Springfield would come.
Aside from two interceptions, Naton proved his value towards the Cardinals’ winning effort. In both building the lead to 21-7 in the first half, and putting the game out of reach in the fourth, he passed for 292 yards, with three passing touchdowns, while running for 11 yards and one touchdown.
The set-up for the Pride’s final stand on their 44 occurred when St. John Fisher fumbled the ball on a punt attempt with less than eight minutes remaining in the game, following a rushing touchdown by Thomas. Springfield returned the fumble, and carried it to the third yard line. Comee would rush the ball in for the touchdown, to cut the score to 28-21 in St. John Fisher’s favor. The Pride’s defense made one final stand against the Cards, as Springfield’s Jesus Sanchez came up with a clutch tackle to pin them to their own 20 yard line. St. John would turn the ball over on downs, leading to the Pride’s final chance that was ultimately snatched away by Mortillaro, and leaving the “what could have been feeling” blanketed over Springfield for the night.
The Pride, now 0-2, will look for their first win of the year, as they play host to Mount Ida next Saturday at 12.
“The efforts there and the willingness to work hard and get on the practice field is definitely there,” said Cerasuolo. “We have the right group of guys in the locker room to get [us] back on track.”