On a cold, windy night at Mitchel Athletic Complex, the bodies were stacked up like firewood. Chaminade tacklers mingled with St. Anthony's blockers, and somewhere in the pile was fullback Anthony Anderson, a football wrapped in his arms.
Did the football travel the distance necessary for St. Anthony's to gain a first down on fourth-and-1 from its own 27-yard line, protecting a two-point lead with 1:54 remaining in Saturday night's CHSFL Class AAA championship game? A first down that would have enabled the Friars to run out the clock?
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St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert glumly knew the answer as he shook his head while officials brought out the chains. He already knew the outcome of the play. "I thought we made it on third down, but they stuffed us on fourth down," Reichert said of consecutive runs by Anderson, who had 85 yards on 17 carries.
Chaminade took possession, advanced the ball to St. Anthony's 16-yard line on a pass, two runs and a spike, and took a 17-16 lead on Zane Wasp's 33-yard field goal. The Friars tried to answer, with Greg Galligan completing passes of 12, 18, 4 and 6 yards, between spikes, moving the ball to the Flyers' 25.
But a high snap and a low kick by Joshua Bacon from 42 yards was blocked by Dan Fowler and St. Anthony's streak of three straight CHSFL titles and 18 straight wins over Chaminade came up short, just as the fourth-down try did.
Reichert did not regret his decision to try for the first down. "If you can't gain a half yard on two tries, you don't deserve to win," said Reichert, who this season became the winningest coach in Suffolk history. "I didn't want to punt into the wind. If we make it, we're taking a knee for the victory."
Instead, he had to watch as Wasp gave the Flyers their first CHSFL title since 1998. St. Anthony's, which defeated Chaminade, 24-23, on Sept. 29, had won 10 of the last 11 league crowns. "[Wasp's] a real good field-goal kicker. A lot of bad things can happen on a kick," Reichert said.
He was particularly impressed with Chaminade's defense, which was stiff all night, not just on that key sequence. "That's where the game was won," he said. "Their defense played very well."
So did St. Anthony's, especially linebacker Dan Carlone, who was all over the field and teamed with Joseph Percival for a safety on Chaminade quarterback Sean Cerrone with 10:33 left that broke a 14-14 tie.
"We played hard, we just couldn't get the yard when we needed it," Reichert said. "Hopefully, this leaves a bad taste in our mouths and we come back next year."