CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Top-seeded John Jay rode an eight-game winning streak into the section semifinals against fifth-seeded Yorktown on Nov. 1. But the Indians’ roll could not keep up with the Huskers in Cross River, and largely ended on the heels of a 200 yard, two- touchdown performance by Yorktown RB Dylan Smith
“He runs downhill and hits the holes,” Head Coach Jimmy Clark said of Smith after the 20-7 loss.
The evening, though, began as a field position game, and John Jay had Yorktown twice pinned deep in their own territory. But Huskers punter John Bowen got off two good kicks to move John Jay back past midfield.
Unable to capitalize, John Jay surrendered the advantage when Dean Patierno returned Luke Mercer’s bouncing punt to the 50 and then left it to Smith. The senior turned the corner 40 yards to the John Jay 10-yard line, and three plays later, he ran the ball in from the two.
In the unfamiliar position of trailing at 10:18 of the second, the disadvantage doubled down on the next play. Max Miraglia was stripped on the return and Patierno took the fumble 38 yards for the touchdown. John Jay could not answer back, and were fortunate to hold the deficit at 13 when Josh Leffel missed a 20-yard field goal at the buzzer.
Even so, the Indians came out fired up. But Smith quickly doused John Jay’s hopes and led off with two runs to the John Jay 39. He then broke 12 yards on third-and-six to put the Huskers at the 25 and finished the drive with a four-yard touchdown run on third-and-three.
Down 20-0 with 6:41 left in the third, the top-seeded Indians were not going down without a fight. Miraglia returned to the 37, and Mercer struck Henry DeGrasse over the middle for 13 more.
Stalled momentarily, a Mercer sneak kept the drive alive on fourth-and-two. He then hit DeGrasse again for a 23-yard gain to the 16. Two plays later, Mercer and DeGrasse finished the drive off, and John Jay was within 13 with 2:07 remaining in the third.
The defense took the cue and gave Yorktown quarterback Trevvon Johnson nothing but a wall to run into on third-and-two. The stage was set for another John Jay score; however, the drive stalled at the 45.
Smith and Yorktown moved the chains and ran out the clock, giving John Jay their first defeat of the season.
But Clark made sure his team held their heads high.
“Yorktown did a great job. But our guys fought until the end, I’m proud of their effort and I hope that they still see themselves as champions,” said Clark.
The loss was tough to take for players like Ian Gallagher. “I’m sad because I’ll never play a snap with these guys again,” the senior lamented.