By Robert Cole
Despite entering the game with an 0-2 record, the Holy Cross Knights’ football team showed grit and toughness, as they battled to the end against the Mount St. Michael Mountaineers in a heartbreaking 42-36 overtime loss at Sen. Michael J. Tully Park in New Hyde Park last Saturday.
“Our kids played very, very hard,” Holy Cross coach Tim Smith said. “Injuries took their toll. We have a lot of kids playing both ways and when they’re injured, we lose guys on both sides of the ball. We got thin, and in the end we did not have enough personnel to finish out the game the way we started.”
In what was a very exciting game in which both teams gave all. The game ultimately turned on the Knights’ inability to find an answer to the Mountaineers’ power running game.
Holy Cross scored first, breaking a 0-0 tie with 27.3 seconds remaining in the first quarter on a touchdown run by Ladon Hicks, who found the end zone to cap off a 60-yard drive. With the successful extra point kick by Marco Oliveri, the Knights took an early 7-0 lead.
The Knights’ defense would flex their muscles in the first half, creating two Mountaineers turnovers. A second fumble of the half at the 11-minute mark of the second quarter resulted in the Knights’ second touchdown of the game. After recovering the fumble, Holy Cross running back Chance Ward ran the ball to the right side of the end zone for six-yard touchdown run with 10:10 left in the half, which gave his squad a 14-0 lead.
The Mountaineers defense forced a turnover of its own with 2:29 remaining in the half, when Holy Cross quarterback Michael Henglein was sacked and fumbled the ball that was recovered in the air by Mount’s Conrad Perry, who returned the ball 75 yards for the score to cut the Knights’ lead to 14-8.
Holy Cross would not be deterred by the setback, however, as the Knights put together a 65-yard drive that ended with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Henglein to Seth Orengo with 4.7 seconds to put Holy Cross up 21-8 heading into halftime.
In the second half, a mishandled snap by the Holy Cross punter John Beaubrun gave the ball to Mount at the Holy Cross 22-yard line, and on the next play, Mount’s Conrad Perry ran the ball in for touchdown run to cut the Knight lead to 21-16 with 6:46 remaining in the third quarter.
Mount would take a 22-21 lead on a 47-yard drive on their next possession, capped off by another touchdown for Perry.
Holy Cross were able to quickly regain the lead after a 63-yard run from Beaubrun put the ball on the Mount 4-yard line. Two plays later, Henglein scored on a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line. The extra-point by Oliveri gave the Knights the 28-22 lead with 43.5 seconds left to play in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, after a failed fake punt by Holy Cross, Mount scored on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Ason Rutledge to Justin Manzanet. The two-point conversion gave Mount a 30-28 lead with 4:32 left in regulation.
The Knights comeback pattern continued when, with 2:59 remaining, Henglein reared back to connect on a 57-yard touchdown pass to Tyriek Dodd, which gave Holy Cross a 36-30 advantage.
Mount tied the score a few plays later on a screen pass to Perry, who outraced the defense for a 70-yard touchdown. The Holy Cross defense kept the score tied at 36-36 after stopping Mount on its two-point attempt.
In overtime, Mount scored on its offensive series when Rutledge ran the ball into the end zone from eight yards out to secure the 42-36 victory.
“We have a gritty team. They’re not going give up,” Smith said after the game. “We coach them to never give up, to work hard and play until the whistle stops blowing, and that just what we do here at Holy Cross. We have always been that type of team and we are going to continue to be that type of team.”