By Anthony Bosco
The Bayside Commodores proved they could hang with the best football programs in the city Saturday when the team hosted last year’s PSAL runner-ups Susan Wagner. Overcoming a 12-point halftime. deficit to tie the game on the final play of regulation and force overtime.
Bayside went on to lose the game after two overtime periods, 20-12, but the significance of his team’s performance was not lost on Commodores coach Joe Capuana.
“We seem to just be on the short end of the stick against these tough teams.” the coach said. “I think it’s time we start winning these games. We didn’t give up, we didn’t pack it in. It’s easy when you’re down 12-0 at halftime to give up, especially against Wagner. We didn’t do that. We were six inches away from winning.”
Starting on their own 18-yard line with close to three minutes left on the clock, Bayside march downfield against the vaunted Falcons defense, utilizing the running of C.J. Okogeri and David Coleman, the passing of quarterback Zanu Simpson and the receiving of Andre Lewis.
But the drive seemed to stall inside the Wagner 20, when an penalty pushed the Commodores back from the 6-yard line to the 15 with just one second remaining on the clock. With time left for just one play, Bayside made the most of it, as Simpson found Lewis in a crowd at the goal-line. Lewis hauled in the pass and slipped into the end zone, tying the game with no time left.
“Andre has been starting here since he was a sophomore,” Capuana said. “He’s made some special plays. He may not be our big-play player, but he always seems to find a way to make a big play.”
Simpson, however just missed the extra point wide right, forcing overtime. Neither team managed to score on their first attempts from the 20-yard line, Bayside failing to move inside the 15 and Wagner being picked off by 5 on the first play from scrimmage.
But the Eagle did finally break the tie on their second possession. On third-and-goal from the 5-yard line, quarterback Kasey Nunez shook off a would-be tackler in the backfield and fired to a crossing Anthony Vergoglino in the end zone for the touchdown. Harrison Tindall ran the ball in on the two-point conversion try to make the score 20-12.
Bayside’s final attempt to tie the game resulted in two straight plays for negative yardage a pass incompletion and an interception on four-and-30 by Kareem Moon to end the game.
“I feel bad for our kids because they had a great work of practice,” Capuana said. “They worked hard and you expect to win, no matter who we play.”
Bayside moved just inside Wagner field position on the team’s first drive of the game, but could not convert on fourth-and-two from the 50, turning the ball over on down. The Falcons then went to work behind the running of Constance Richardson and the play of Nunez. Richardson carried three times for 16 yards before Nunez hit a well-covered Harrison Tindall for a 31-yard touchdown with 2:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Wagner increased its with 46 second remaining in the half when Tindall capped a 65-yard drive, taking a sprint-draw straight through the heart of the Bayside defense for a 35 yards touchdown jaunt, making the score 12-0.
The Commodores got on the board in the third, taking over at mid-field and marching down to the Falcons’ one-yard line, including a successful fake punt on fourth-and-two. Simpson’s naked bootleg brought Bayside to the Wagner 11 and took it in himself five plays later, making the score 12-6.
Wagner had a chance to put the game away in the final minutes, but could not convert on fourth-and-two from the Bayside 18 when Nunez was stopped short of the marker. The Commodores took over, leading to the dramatic conclusion of regulation.
But it was the visiting Falcons that had the last laugh.
“I was very proud of them,” Capuana said of his team. “ I think if we continue to play hard , fortunes will turn around in our favor. This is a good football team.”
Bayside (0-2) gets another tough test next week when they travel to Staten Island to take on Port Richmond Saturday at 12.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.