MONARCHS 12, PORTERS 7
These Monarchs have pride, and for good reason.
Bishop McGann-Mercy is off to one of the greatest starts in the football team’s history. Indeed, these are heady times for the Riverhead Catholic school. The Monarchs, who were seeded 12th in Suffolk County Division IV in a preseason coaches poll, brought their record to 4-0 on Saturday with a 12-7 homecoming win over Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island at Harold T. Murray Memorial Field.
“Mercy football, 4 and 0!” said Asaiah Wilson, who played quarterback and safety for McGann-Mercy. Wilson went so far as to proclaim this the “best team in Mercy history.”
McGann-Mercy coach Jeff Doroski said he did not know if the Monarchs had ever won their first four games in a season before. “We’re playing much more physical than we’ve ever played before,” he said. “We’re excited about what’s happening here.”
If the Monarchs were looking for an easy time against Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island (0-4), it wasn’t happening. For one thing, it’s a rivalry game, and the Porters played what was easily their best game of the season.
McGann-Mercy can credit its defense for holding on during crunch time. After forcing McGann-Mercy to punt — and benefitting from a couple of penalties in the process — the Porters took possession at the Monarchs’ 40-yard line with 3 minutes 11 seconds to go in the game and the score 12-7. They reached the 16 before being stopped on a fourth-down play in which Eugene Allen absorbed a powerful initial hit by Wilson before being brought down by Ray Ellis for no gain. By holding the Porters several inches short of a first down, McGann-Mercy was able to run off four plays and the remaining time in the game.
“We lost basically by four inches,” said Allen, a junior who made his first start at quarterback. “We gave it all we can, just four inches. It was our game if we just made that one play.”
A controversial pass interference call against Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island also had a big impact. The call came in the third quarter, negating an interception by Jack Volinski and allowing McGann-Mercy to retain possession. Two plays later, Wilson took the ball 10 yards on a quarterback sneak for a touchdown that made the score 12-0 with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
“That might have been the game,” Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island coach Jack Martilotta said. “I talked to the official about it. I have no clue why he called that.”
Wilson (7 of 16, 139 yards), a junior transfer from Longwood, was also involved in McGann-Mercy’s first touchdown. He flipped a screen pass to Reggie Archer for a 37-yard touchdown completion in the second quarter.
Archer had a productive running game as well. Traversing a muddy, slick field that made it hard to get traction, the sophomore accumulated 122 yards from 29 carries.
A promising 11-play, 65-yard drive by McGann-Mercy reached the Porters’ 7-yard line. But the Monarchs came away empty-handed on the final play of the first half when Ed Kneski’s 35-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Timmy Stevens.
Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island got on the scoreboard with 7:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Porters capped a 16-play drive with a three-yard touchdown run by Allen, making it a one-score game.
Allen is a playmaker, and that was the Porters’ thinking in going with him at quarterback instead of Matt Drinkwater, who had started the first three games at that position.
“We’re trying to get the ball in his hands as much as we can,” Martilotta said. “Drinkwater was doing well, but we feel [Allen] gives us a better chance to win. He’s quite an athlete. He made a couple of things happen today.”
Allen completed his last eight passes, going 10 of 11 for 104 yards. He said he took his first snaps as a quarterback since he was a freshman, and had not worked on his passing since mini camp over the summer. But he said he was confident. “I think if I had to, I can play any position on the field,” he said.
Allen took his share of hits from a McGann-Mercy defense that was a tough nut to crack. Pat Marelli made a game-high eight tackles, including one of the Monarchs’ six sacks.
Instead of their first win, the Porters dropped their ninth straight loss dating back to last year.
“It hurts,” Martilotta said. He added, “If we got that first down right there [near the end of the game], we’d be having a different interview right now.”
Meanwhile, these are happy times at McGann-Mercy, where the school is abuzz about what its football team has been doing. The Monarchs started the day in third place. Who knows where they will end up by the time the regular season ends? At this point, it looks like a safe bet that the Monarchs will be making their first playoff appearance since 2007. Their remaining games are against Port Jefferson, Shoreham-Wading River, The Stony Brook School and East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but something like this, I’m just shocked,” Wilson said. “I’m overwhelmed.”