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Another agonizing loss for St. Anthony's football

Dante Torres #3, St. Anthony's quarterback, scrambles for

Dante Torres #3, St. Anthony's quarterback, scrambles for yards as Kieran Connolly #6 of Iona Prep forces him out of bounds during the fourth quarter a CHSFL game at St. Anthony's High School on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. Credit: James Escher

Huntington's Heartbreak Kids were at it again on Friday night, and this time St. Anthony's has to have found the most painful way to lose.

Just a couple weekends since the Friars suffered a late collapse at home to lose by four points against Archbishop Stepinac, they came within two yards of knocking off CHSFL-leader Iona Prep at their Cy Donnelly Field. This time the final score was 35-34 and it hurt in so many ways.

St. Anthony’s led by 13 at the half and by 20 with 5:50 left in the third quarter before giving up the final 21 points to come out on the raw end of the decision. Friars quarterback Dante Torres had had an exceptional night but was intercepted by Terrance Walden with 1:44 left in the game to set up the Gaels' go-ahead score.

Then there was the game’s final possession.

St. Anthony’s (4-2, 4-2) took possession after Ajani Sheppard’s 9-yard touchdown run with 54 seconds left and was able to move the ball. The game’s last play was a fourth-and-10 on the Gaels 42, and Torres uncorked a Hail Mary intended for the sure-handed Korey Duff Jr. The pass was just short of the end zone and two defenders got a hand on it before Duff Jr. came down with it, but they brought him down on the Gaels’ 2 to end it.

"This feels terrible," Duff Jr. said. "I thought I might not get to the ball coming back toward it and then somehow I did. But they stopped me short. I came up just short."

The determination to beat Iona Prep – ranked No. 1 in the state according to the NYS Sportswriters Poll – was clear in just about everything St. Anthony was doing. Timmy Longo caught a short pass and dragged several defenders along as he made it a 24-yard gain on a second-and-19 in the second quarter. Michael Leo shed blockers to run down a huge sack. And Andrew Bardak thwarted an Iona drive with a sack, one of his 13 tackles.

"We played better the second half, but I'm going to hand it to coach (Joe) Minucci and St. Anthony’s," Gaels coach Joe Spagnolo said. "They came to play and they out-schemed us. Really, they outplayed us most of the game and are an excellent team.

"I’m glad we won, but you have to think we might see them again."

Said Minucci: ‘It hurts. The only positive takeaway is that it was a regular-season game."

Torres was 23-for-42 passing for 353 yards and four touchdowns, all scored in building a 34-14 lead. He and St. Anthony’s were especially adroit at avoiding Ellis Robinson IV, the Iona sophomore many consider the top blue-chip prospect in the area.

But after Iona Prep cut it to 34-21, St. Anthony’s had three straight three-and-outs while Zyian Moultrie-Goddard was closing the gap to six on an 14-yard TD run with 7:40 to play.

When Torres got picked off by Walden, the Gaels had the ball at their own 47. The first play from scrimmage was a hook-and-lateral to Robinson that went 32 yards and into the red zone. Five plays later Sheppard was back in the end zone with 56 seconds left and Sean O’Neil made the extra point for the lead.

Torres' scores went 30 yards to Darius Morant, 20 to Longo, 5 to Kenyon Miles and 9 to Duff Jr. while Frank Ruta added a 4-yard touchdown run for the Friars . Sheppard was 19-for-25 passing for 193 yards and rushed 25 times for 176 yards and Robinson had an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for the Gaels.

"For the game to end this way stinks," Torres said. "I still believe we're going to be there at the end because there is too much talent on our team. It’s too bad they just wanted it a little more at the end."

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