By Joseph Staszewski
The St. Francis Prep players received appreciative applause from their parents and fans as they walked back to the locker room. You wouldn’t have known the Terriers had just lost had you not watched what happened on the field or the events immediately after the game.
“I think our team is growing from this and becoming more of a family,” senior wide receiver Tanner Brandimarte said.
The team huddled in the end zone, stressing the need to build off the many positives coming from the second half of SFP’s heartbreaking 32-26 loss to visiting Mount St. Michael at the Mitchell Athletic Complex Friday night.
The offense then rallied around quarterback Brendan Stackpole, whose interception on an attempted pass to Brandimarte at the goal line with 3.7 seconds left ended the chance of a late comeback.
“It was there,” the senior signal-caller said. “I just had to put a little more into it. If I would have zipped it in a little more it would have went right through that guy.”
That guy was Mount’s Bruce Parker Jr, who picked off Stackpole twice. Still, going to the air more was the reason Prep (0-2, 0-1) was able to get back in the game. Stackpole connected with Brandimarte three times for scores. There was a 45-yard strike right before the half that cut the lead to 19-6, then connections of 22 and 30 yards in the fourth quarter that brought the Terriers within 32-26 with 3:34 remaining in the game.
Stackpole was 17 of 30 for 240 yards, but had three interceptions. Brandimarte made six catches for 152 yards and Michael Gebert had five grabs for 53 yards. Casey Beaudoin added a three-yard scoring run.
“I couldn’t believe some of the catches,” Prep Coach Vince O’Connor said. “It was like they went through [Mount] guys’ hands or something. Like, ‘How did he get that ball?’”
His team had to dig itself out a 19-0 first-half hole and a 32-12 deficit early in the fourth. Mount quarterback Jaylen Amaker ran for 151 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. The Mountaineers (1-0, 1-0) caught SFP off guard with a 52-yard end-around touchdown from wide receiver David Lulgjuraj on the first play of the fourth and scored against after a Stackpole interception and a Ramel Brown drop in the end zone on the final drive.
“We are never giving up,” Brandimarte said.
That’s the mentality the Terriers are taking into next weekend’s meeting with Iona Prep. They would also like to carry over the effectiveness of its passing game despite its second straight loss.
“It was fun football,” Stackpole said. “I know it’s a loss and it’s tough and a lot of it is on me, but that’s why we play. That’s one of the best games. It stinks.”