Senior Joshua Bacon lined up for the game winner. Just 4 seconds remained as the St. Anthony’s kicker set up for a 42-yard field goal to decide the CHSFL Class AAA championship.
The snap was high. But holder Paul Guarino snared it and put the ball down effortlessly. Bacon, an accurate kicker with a strong leg, booted it with a thump.
Yet it never went past the line of scrimmage. Chaminade senior Danny Fowler swooped in and then leapt, his arms stretched to the sky. He blocked the kick to add an exclamation point to Chaminade’s thrilling, 17-16, win over the three-time defending champion Friars Saturday night at Mitchel Athletic Complex before a crowd of 3,000.
“Two years ago I got moved up and we went 0-8,” Fowler said. “We were the laughing stock of the league and the school. Last year we came back, picked it up a little bit and went 6-4. To come out to win this and beat [St. Anthony’s] – it’s the first time any senior has beaten them – it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Bacon was bowled over in the scrum for the ball. And once the play was blown dead, the Flyers’ sideline exploded in pent-up emotion decades in the making. Chaminade (10-1) broke a string of 20 straight losses to St. Anthony’s dating to 1998 and in the process won the program’s first title in 14 seasons.
“It was a bad snap,” St. Anthony’s Coach Rich Reichert said matter-of-factly.
It appeared to be another storybook finish for the St. Anthony’s (8-3) football team. So many times during the program’s dynastic run atop the CHSFL the Friars found a way to win in the waning moments.
Defensive stand. Clutch field goal. Field goal block. Those are the types of statements the top-seeded Friars have made in the past.
On this night, those were plays archrival and No. 3 seed Chaminade delivered in the final two minutes.
The decision Friars faithful will dissect for some time set the final frenzied finish into motion. Reichert opted to go for it on fourth-and-inches from his own 28-yard-line with 2 minutes to go, nursing a 16-14 lead.
Get the first down and the game is over.
“We’re punting into the wind,” Reichert said. “If we get the first down we’re kneeling on the ball.”
Senior running back Anthony Anderson, who finished with 90 yards on 14 carries, got the ball and barreled into the line. The Flyers pushed him back immediately, stopping the play cold.
“I thought we played hard,” Reichert said. “But I’m disappointed that on third and fourth down we couldn’t get a yard.”
Now Chaminade took possession at the Friars’ 27.
The Friars defense, so good the second half of the season, held the Flyers out of the end zone. It came down to a 33-yard field goal attempt. Chaminade senior Zane Wasp proved up to the challenge, splitting the uprights with 47.6 seconds left.
“In my head I’m thinking, ‘This is against St. Anthony’s,’” Wasp said. “I’ve been preparing for this moment since I was a freshman. It’s honestly the most awesome feeling.”
So many things didn’t go the Friars way in the final two minutes.
And yet St. Anthony’s quarterback Greg Galligan completed 4 of 8 passes to move the offense 55 yards in the final seconds, highlighted by a 4-yard out pattern to Naim Jones to set up a field goal attempt from the 25.
St. Anthony’s trailed 14-7 at the half, but took its first possession of the third quarter 56 yards for a touchdown. Anderson, who broke a 26-yard run on the drive, finished it by galloping 18 yards for the equalizing score with 8:08 left in the third.
That’s how it remained until 10:33 left in the game when senior linebacker Dan Carlone dropped Chaminade quarterback Sean Cerrone for a 6-yard sack and safety to put the Friars ahead, 16-14.
Cerrone, who ran for 126 yards and threw for 39 more, accounted for both Chaminade touchdowns.
St. Anthony’s had an inspirational figure on the sideline for the game. Sophomore Nick Polo, who missed his junior varsity season battling a brain tumor, served as honorary captain.
The Friars have played in 19 of the last 20 CHSFL title games and won 10 times in the previous 11 seasons. The dynasty has been interrupted, but it’s far from finished.
“It’s over,” Reichert said of the latest bull run. “We’ll survive. This isn’t the end of the world.”
CHSFL Class AAA ChampionshipTeams 1 2 3 4 F Chaminade 7 7 0 3 17 St. Anthony's 7 0 7 2 16
SA – Jones 4 run (Musgrove kick)
C – Cerrone 40 run (Wasp kick)
C – M. Walsh 11 pass from Cerrone (Wasp kick)
SA – Anderson 18 run (Bacon kick)
SA – Safety (Cerrone sacked in end zone)
C – Wasp FG 33