CORTLANDT, N.Y. – Led by an explosive offense and a stout defense, the undefeated John Jay football team had enjoyed three blowouts coming into last Friday night’s game at Walter Panas.
But football is a three-dimensional game, and Head Coach Jimmy Clark geared his lesson plan as such.
“We put emphasis on special teams” leading up to the game, said Clark. The kicking and return teams were responsible for three touchdowns in the 49-17 rout on Sept. 27.
The coming-out party took a back seat to the defense on the opening sequence, however. Jon Connelly smothered a fumble on the second play from scrimmage, which cued up another Luke Mercer/Max Miraglia score. This time, the QB/WR tandem connected for a 25-yard touchdown with 11:07 to go in the first quarter.
Panas brought out the punt team after another quick defensive stop. Miraglia broke through the line, made the block, scooped up the ball, and ran it in for a touchdown.
The ensuing kickoff screamed off Panas’ upback and the Indians’ Joseph McCormick picked it out of the air, returning it to the Panas 10-yard line. Mercer was soon running untouched into the end zone for another John Jay score.
But Panas did have some fight. Quarterback Mark Perez hit Robert Ennis on a cut across the middle, and the Indians were left chasing on a 58-yard touchdown play.
Undeterred, John Jay answered back with an 81-touchdown run by Miraglia. But holding nullified the play, and Panas had their first stop.
Will Stein made sure the momentum swung back with a big sack, and his quarterback made the most it the other way. On the changeover, Mercer broke through the line and took the daylight 82 yards for a 28-7 lead with 10:55 left in the half.
Panas didn’t seem to have an answer. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on third-and-15 kept the drive alive, and James Duren took advantage with a 40-yard run to the 10.
Still, the scamper appeared to be for naught when Grady Halaifonua stepped in for an interception. But the Indians were flagged for roughing the passer.
“Everything is a learning experience, but we have to maintain discipline,” Clark asserted.
Panas was still forced to settle for a 22-yard Michael Ronga field goal with eight minutes remaining. But Miraglia was determined to not let the momentum shift any further.
“I was hoping they didn’t onside kick, because I really wanted the ball,” he said.
Miraglia got his wish and took the kickoff 80 yards for a 35-10 lead. Miraglia’s third touchdown came on another blocked punt in the third, and John Jay could look ahead to Lakeland.
“Every game is the biggest game of the year,” concluded Clark. “That’s our approach.”