By Anthony Bosco
Holy Cross and St. Francis Prep entered yet another classic football game into their storied rivalry Saturday, when the two neighboring programs hooked up to open the 2001 high school season at the Bayside High School Athletic Field.
The Knights dominated much of the game, but the Terriers found a way to make it interesting, driving inside the Cross 5-yard line with under a minute to play, trailing 20-14. Facing fourth-and-one at the three, Prep called on fullback Christopher Zambrano, the team’s workhorse to try and win it for St. Francis.
But the Cross defense held firm, stopping Zambrano less than a yard short of the first down and handing possession back over to the Knights’ offense, essentially ending the game.
“I thought if they get the first down they win the game,” said Holy Cross coach Tom Pugh, who admitted to being very nervous near the end of the game. “You let them hang around….it’s Prep-Cross, anything can happen and usually does.”
Cross, which has won the last two meetings between the schools, both located on Francis Lewis Boulevard, set the tempo of the game on its very first play, as deep back Woody Aime took the opening kickoff at the Knights’ 25, cut left, found a seam along the sidelines and raced 75 yards for the touchdown.
“It was a return left and I just followed my blockers,” said Aime, a senior being recruited by both Syracuse and Hofstra. “Our team was ready. I was ready to play.”
The Terriers answered with a big return of their own, when Eric Tuy received the kick as the Prep 33 and raced into Cross territory before being dragged down. A clipping penalty, however, brought the ball back to the St. Francis 30, where head coach Vince O’Connor went to work with his offense.
Using the power of Zambrano (31 yards on nine carries), who also played defense for the Terriers, and the quickness of senior Brian Forman (63 yards on 12 carries), Prep used its own version of the New York Giants’ “Thunder and Lightning.” But an offside call stalled the Terriers’ first drive just short of midfield.
Neither team managed much offense until the start of the second quarter. Having received a punt at their own 17, the Knights ran Aime twice for two and 12 yards to put the ball on the St. Francis 31. Pugh called Aime’s number again and the tailback found daylight, breaking through the line of scrimmage and scampering 69 yards for the score.
Aime finished the game with 156 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.
Daniel Woods’ extra point was blocked, making the score 13-0 with 11:09 remaining in the first half.
“The play was a 22 trap,” Aime said. “The linebackers were blitzing, They were blitzing all day. I just got in the hole.”
One possession later Cross again penetrated Prep territory, getting as far as the 32 before two penalties pushed the Knights back to the 42, leading to an eventual punt and subsequent clipping call, which pinned St. Francis at its own 7-yard line.
Forman carried twice for 13 and 20 yards to put the Terriers on their own 40. Quarterback Peter Mazzurco (6-for-10 for 97 yards, one touchdown) then found Natale Modica for a pickup of 20, but the play was called back on a holding penalty. Undeterred, Prep converted on fourth-and-one at midfield when Zambrano pushed ahead for two yards to keep the drive alive.
Two plays later, Mazzurco went up top to Forman, who battled Cross’ Leon Bryce for the ball, which popped free and was snatched out of mid-air by David Morano, who raced untouched to the end zone for the 54-yard score. The extra point made the score 13-7 with 1:17 remaining in the first half.
“Our guy went up to intercept the ball and our own guy hit him,” Pugh said. “Those things happen.”
Cross extended its lead in the second half, marching 53 yards on 12 plays capped by a 17-yard touchdown run by Michael Fogarile (five carries, 51 yards), making the score 20-7 with 11:09 to play in the fourth quarter.
Prep went three-and-out on its next possession and the Terrier defense returned the favor on Cross’ next series, setting up a punt by Daniel Woods. But the snap by Doug Anderwkavich sailed high over Woods’ head and was recovered by Prep’s Alfred Foy in the end zone, pulling St. Francis to within six, 20-14, with 6:44 remaining in regulation.
On the ensuing possession, Cross marched to the Prep 42 before a false start and sack by Michael Conigliaro forced a punt. The kick sailed to the Prep 30, where Eric Maiorino fielded the ball and darted right, bringing the ball all the way to the Cross 39.
On the first play from scrimmage, Mazzurco found a wide open Forman in the flat for a 27-yard pickup to the Knights’ 13. Zambrano picked up five yards on two carries and Forman made another reception at the four, setting up fourth-and-one with 54 seconds remaining on the clock.
Zambrano got the call, but was held a foot shy of the first down.
“I definitely thought I had it, but I guess I didn’t push enough,” Zambrano said. “What can you do?
“We showed a lot of heart coming back,” the senior captain from Whitestone added. “We showed character. We just made too many mental mistakes.”
“Just like I told the boys, I think they played an excellent football game,” O’Connor said. “We just came up a little short.”
Cross will take on Chaminade Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in the team’s Catholic High School Football League opener at the Bayside High School Athletic Field and Prep will battle Fordham Prep at St. John’s University on Sunday at 1 p.m.
St. Peter’s 27, Christ the King 0. The Christ the King Royals could not get anything going in their lone preseason game, being shutout by the Eagles. The game was still competitive when CK lost middle linebacker Orlando Garcia to a gash across his arm, which required more than 12 stitches to close.
“When he went down I saw the air come out of the balloon on the defensive,” said CK coach Mike Cassidy. “It was last year all over again.
St. Peter’s led 7-0 at halftime and cruised in the second half, wracking up three more scores, while CK floundered on both sides of the ball.
“I was very impressed with them,” Cassidy said of St. Peter’s. “They’re well coached. It’s going to take time.”
The Royals will need to bounce back quickly, as they travel to Staten Island Saturday night to take on the Monsignor Farrell Lions at 7 p.m.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.