There are moments that define football teams. Those are moments when champions rise and make big plays. Chaminade and St. Anthony's lived in that kind of a moment late in yesterday's CHSFL showdown.
Chaminade quarterback Sean Cerrone scored on a 6-yard run to draw the Flyers within one point with 1:15 left. The touchdown capped an 80-yard drive and had the St. Anthony's defense reeling.
With plenty of momentum and a raucous crowd on its feet, Chaminade coach Stephen Boyd called timeout and opted to go for the two-point conversion and the lead.
"We were going for the win," Boyd said. "We had the momentum and believe in the kids they believe in themselves. My only thought was, 'Let's win the football game.' "
It was a gutsy call against the defending CHSFL champions.
Chaminade lined up in a full house backfield and Rob Speranza took the handoff on a blast over left tackle behind the lead blocks of Matt Correa and Dan Fowler. The caravan of blocking was met in the hole by a swarming defense led by Dan Carlone and Mike Strack.
Speranza was stopped short of the goal line as St. Anthony's held on for a 24-23 victory before a packed house of more than 1,500 in Mineola.
"I thought it was a great call because they had all the momentum going and they were home," St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert said. "It was a terrific play by our defense."
"We were confident in the play call," Boyd said. "Give them credit, they stopped us."
St. Anthony's took a 17-0 lead just 4:35 into the first quarter. Junior halfback Naim Jones, who missed most of last season with a broken leg, went on a counter left for a 48-yard touchdown run to cap the Friars' first drive.
After defensive end Jared Katz tackled Cerrone for a safety and a 9-0 lead, Jones took the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a score and a 15-0 lead. St. Anthony's added the two-point conversion when kicker Josh Bacon passed to Conner Byrne.
"We can't give anyone a 17-point lead," Boyd said. "But I will say that I was extremely proud of our guys the way they came back."
Chaminade (3-1) scored the next 17 points to tie the score at 17 with 6:26 left in the half. Cerrone engineered an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped by a Zenker 20-yard scoring reception to cut it to 17-7. The Flyers continued that comeback when Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the 30 and six plays later, Speranza scored on a 4-yard run to make it 17-14.
The Flyers weren't done. Zane Wasp added a 26-yard field goal to tie it 17 with 6:26 left in the half.
"We responded with a great drive to end the half and grab the momentum," Reichert said.
St. Anthony's quarterback Greg Galligan guided the Friars 80 yards in 15 plays and fired a perfect 18-yard touchdown strike to Anthony Duggan for the 24-17 lead with nine seconds left in the half.
The second half had its share of big defensive stops before Chaminade's final drive, which was keyed by a 60-yard gain to the St. Anthony's 9-yard line on a well-executed hook-and-lateral play. Cerrone fired a 10-yard out to Zenker, who lateraled to Speranza for the big gain. Cerrone scored on the next play to make it 24-23.
"We leave disappointed in the loss but knowing we can beat St. Anthony's," Zenker said. "We went on first sound for the two points at the end and they got penetration and made the play. I hope we meet them again -- in the championship game."