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Team VH Insider
Demarest vs Dwight Morrow
Game Of The Week

Two years ago when this season’s seniors were sophomores the Norsemen suffered through an 0-10 season. But with a 35-0 victory over Dwight Morrow Friday night this year’s team is heading to the North 1, Group 3 semifinals.

“I can’t be happier for these kids,” said Demarest coach Tony Mottola. “I think it’s harder to go 0-10 than 10-0 because you have to have a lot of bad things happen to you to go 0-10. And we did that year.

“We knew if they could just stay together, commit back into the program it would pay off in the long run. I’m just thrilled that they made that commitment. I’m so thankful and happy that they are experiencing this kind of success. They deserve it; they really do. You talk about a great story in sports - from 0-10 to the semifinals - it doesn’t get any better than that. Especially in a tough sport like football.”

The Norsemen set the tone early with a nine-play, 60-yard touchdown drive on the opening possession of the game. The key play was a 6-yard pass completion from senior quarterback Austin Albericci to junior running back Thomas Reilly. On the play Albericci scrambled back and forth, avoiding Maroon Raiders defenders with speed and quick moves, before spotting Reilly down the left sideline.

“That kid keeps plays alive with his feet,” Mottola said. “The one thing he does that is difficult, but is set in his body, is scrambling with his eyes downfield. He doesn’t look at his feet or the defenders, he keeps his eyes downfield. He made three or four big plays for us down the field on broken plays. When you have a quarterback that can do that, sometimes it’s hard to call a wrong play.” Albericci scored untouched on a 10-run sprint up the middle on the next play and the Norsemen led, 7-0. Dwight Morrow threatened to score late in the first quarter with a march that began on their own 4-yard line. Four first downs later, including a 15-yard Andrew Jones to George McFadden pass completion, the Maroon Raiders had a first down at the Demarest 15. Two running plays lost six yards and on third down Jones gained five yards to set up a 4th-and-11. Jones rolled to the right but the Demarest defense sacked him for a nine-yard loss and the Norsemen got the ball back.

“They did have that nice drive [but] they didn’t score,” said Mottola. “I don’t know if  the game would have changed too much but it could have had a different ending. I don’t know. I like that our kids had a big sack that knocked them out of there. Our defense has done some good things, we can put points up and that’s why we’re 9-1.”

Albericci went right to work, connecting with sophomore Jack Mottola for 21 yards on a third-down play. Later he found senior Endrit Kaleci for five yards, ran for nine yards on two carries and hooked up with senior Ryan Vadis for 12 yards. On third down at the Raiders 17 senior running back Henry Lockhart burst through the line and bolted into the end zone. “Henry played very well,” Mottola said. “It was tough when Kevin [McCloskey] went down last week. We’re fortunate to have a week that we can hopefully get him healthy for next week. Henry stepped right in and played great tonight.
“We took the leash off Austin and let him run the ball. We have enough weapons that we can spread it out but I was really happy with Henry. He was waiting for the opportunity and he made the most of it.”

Demarest scored again just before intermission on a four-play drive that took just over a minute to complete. Albericci and Mottola hooked up for 16 yards to get things going. Then, the “unleashed” Albericci gained 21 yards on two carries before he tossed a short pass to Kaleci, who slipped a tackle in the flat and scampered into the end zone to give Demarest a 21-0 lead at the half.

“They have some pretty good kids up front,” senior lineman Connor Scaglione said of the Maroon Raiders. “They have some big kids, their ends are pretty fast and their linebackers are pretty good too. You can’t look past them because their defense is pretty good. They’re not the easiest team defensively in terms of who they have in the box, but I think we handled it pretty well tonight.” Dwight Morrow got the ball to open the third quarter but the Demarest defense had the Maroon Raiders moving backwards. That would continue through most of the second half.

“Coach [Tom] Basile and the defensive staff did a good job the last time we played them, bottling up No. 1 (Quanzie Lumsden) and No. 3 (Malachi McFadden), who I think are just phenomenal football players,” said Mottola. “We were able to do it again tonight and it’s a credit to our kids. They play passionately, they play fast. We have that bend but don’t break attitude. We know they’re going to make plays but let’s reload, take a deep breath and let’s win the next rep.”

“The main thing we focused on preparing for these guys was the mistakes we made last time,” said Scaglione. “We repped everything - goal line, long passes, long runs, short passes, short runs, every single day. We really worked on fixing our mistakes from last time.” Demarest made it 28-0 on a Albericci to Joe Rotonde pass good for 21 yards. On the play, Rotonde caught a short pass and refused to be tackled, running over and around Raiders defenders. They closed out the scoring with an 18-yard TD pass from Albericci to Mottola early in the fourth quarter. That drive was spurred by Lockhart’s running. He finished with 39 yards rushing.

“Our backs are huge,” Albericci said. “Henry is huge, Thomas Reilly is a great back. Henry is great for us. He’s always a hard worker. For the past four years he’s been going at it with Kevin [McCloskey]. They battle. It’s next man up mentality.” Albericci completed 16-of-21 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 77 yards and a touchdown. Jack Mottola hauled in eight passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. And then there was the swarming defense that blanketed Jones, Lumsden and McFadden throughout the game. “When you get in an atmosphere against a very good Dwight Morrow team,” Mottola said, “you have to make sure you are keeping leverage on the football, bringing as many helmets as we can to it. Because one false step or move or wrong lane and they’re gone.
“That’s the thing that Coach Basile talks about all practice. That’s how we practice. That’s what we do. We want to get as many blue helmets to that football as possible.
Demarest travels to River Dell next Friday night in the next round of the state playoffs.

“The past three years they’ve (the Raiders) given us nothing but battles,” Albericci said. “We’ve had nail-biters with them and lost heart-breakers to them. We wanted revenge, we wanted to tie up the series. We knew undefeated at home was on the line and this was our last home game. We wanted something big for the community.”
“Our kids are a part of something special and they want to keep it going,” Mottola said. “We have a tough one next week but at least we have the opportunity. Fighting through the adversity of 0-10 they’re hungry. They don’t take plays off. They relish and appreciate every single play. They are an absolute joy to coach. They’re not just great football players; they’re even better kids. They’re special.”

Article By JC Baumuller


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