The Center Moriches football team began Saturday afternoon celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their program.
And they ended it celebrating a hard-fought victory.
Running back John Mercado caught four screen passes for 110 yards and three touchdowns, and added 22 yards rushing on seven carries to propel the Red Devils to a 26-21 home win over Southampton in a Suffolk IV game.
Nick Moran’s interception at the Center Moriches 40-yard line with 1:36 remaining sealed the win with scores of alumni, former players and former coach Steve Failla in attendance.
“This was a really big win for the kids,” Center Moriches coach Joseph Reggio said. “Especially in front of this crowd.”
Mercado kicked off the scoring with a 38-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Hunter Hassett, and sandwiched respective scores of 50 and 14 yards around a 15-yard Southampton rushing touchdown by Aaron Napier to give the Red Devils a 20-7 lead in the second quarter.
“I was just glad I was helping the team,” Mercado said.
Hassett tossed two touchdowns, with Emond Frasier adding the other.
Napier ran for a 10-yard touchdown in the second to cut the Southampton deficit to 20-14 at halftime.
Nathan Sigerson punched in a 2-yard touchdown run late in the third to extend the Center Moriches lead to 26-14 following David Carroll’s interception at midfield.
Napier returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown to bring the Mariners within five with 10:42 to go. Moran’s interception ended the Southampton threat, giving Center Moriches its third win of the season after winning just two games last year.
“The kids are learning how to win,” Reggio said. “Even after facing adversity.”