The Mighty Spartans
By PHIL BRODSKY
Orange Live Sports Writer
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At the end of the first half of Friday night’s Southern Connecticut Conference inter-divisional game, Guilford held a 20-16 lead. The Spartan offense had chalked up a rather pedestrian 114 yards on the ground and another 72 in the air. Reminiscent of Clark Kent hopping into a phone booth and coming out Superman, a totally different team came storming out in the second half, Stacking up 45 points, 237 rushing yards and another 109 in the air, the Spartans trampled the visiting Indians 61-43 in a wild game that saw the two teams combine for 31 first downs, 14 touchdowns, and 977 yards of total offense. The game wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. The victors actually led 61-27 until Guilford picked up a pair of late scores.
As he walked off Bill Johnson Field, winning Coach Bert Mozealous admitted that his team had played much better, particularly on defense in the second half. In addition to noting that it had recovered three Indian fumbles, he said, “Guilford had some silly turnovers but we did a better of penetrating. They run an option offense and the key to stopping the option is each player has to be responsible for fulfilling his assignment. In the first half, we didn’t play responsibility defense. We didn’t stop their fullback (junior Eric Zergiebel, who rambled for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries) who ran hard and with speed all night but we did decide to cover their quarterback (junior Joe Nault) in the second half. Once we started penetrating, we lessened the effect of their play action. ”
Nault finished with 46 yards on 18 carries but did not complete any of his 4 throws.
On the other side of the ledger, Amity’s senior running back Dave Attolino exploded for a career-best 195 yards and two touchdowns.
According to Mozealous, “Dave has great desire and wants to do well. I’m not sure he really believes that he is a really good running back, but he has to prove to himself that does have the ability to put the team on his back and carry us. He was really galloping tonight.”
Trailing 20-16 at the outset of the third quarter, the Spartan touched the ball three times, scored each time, and shot ahead 37-27..
Set up by Attolino’s 59 yard gallop to the Guilford 25, Amity’s Dave Buono cashed in on the next play to take a 23-20 lead. It came on the winners’ third offensive play of the half. Guilford wasted no time in striking back. On their second play after the Spartan score, Zergeibel shredded the Spartan defense for 56 yards and retook the lead 27-23 with 8 minutes, 27 seconds still left in the third session.
Driving 60 yards on nine plays, Amity went on top to stay when quarterback James Senmmonella dove into the end zone from a yard out. The key plays of the drive were a 22 yard pitch from Semmonella to Tyler Burns for a first down at the Guilford 38 and Attolino’s 16 yard jaunt for another first down at the visitors’ 10.
After Zergiebel raced through the Spartans for 35 yards and a first down at the Amity46, Nault fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Buono at his own 40. This time the Spartans needed only five plays to find the end zone once again. Following Semmonella’s 44 yard keeper that put Amity at the Indian 10, Attolino recorded his second TD, giving the hosts a 37-27 advantage with 1:26 still left in the quarter.
Things soon went from bad to worse for Guilford. Three plays later, another Nault fumble was gobbled up by Frankie Cavanaugh at the Guilford 47. Attolino’s 20 yard sprint ended the third quarter. The fourth quarter began with Semmonella hitting Attolino with a 21 yard pass and a first down at the Indian 4. When the Guilford defense stiffened, Amity place kicker Lyle Luth booted a 23 yard field goal that extended the winners’ lead ton 40-27.
Two plays after Luth’s second three pointer of the night, Nault’s third drop was recovered by Buono at the Guilford 38. It took only three plays for Amity to again punish the Indians for dropping then ball. This time Ricks raced 23 yards that opened up a 47-27 lead with 6:22 left in the game. On the second play after that score, Nick Walker picked off a Guilford lateral and he took it 24 yards for yet another touchdown. With 3:07 to go, Amity closed out is offensive barrage as Semmonella connected with Anthony DeMatteo on a 49 yard TD pass and a 61-27 lead.
Guilford made it a bit more respectable as Zergiebel (17 yard run) and Nault (30 yard run) scored in the final two minutes of the game and added a two point conversion run.
“We learned in the first half that we couldn’t do foolish things and play the kind of offense we played in the first half,” Mozealous said. “During the halftime break I told my guys to be patient and use one play to set up another play. While I’m happy with our offensive production tonight, I’m not happy with how we ran our option offense. We need to be more consistent. Defensively, I think we took away things that Guilford wanted to do in the second half.”
Guilford’s first possession of the night was a grinding 12 play-70 yard overland drive that was climaxed by Nault’s four yard run with 6:20 left in the first quarter. Later in the same session, Burns picked off a Nault pass at the Guilford 35 and raced it home for an apparent score—but the return was nullified by a penalty against the Spartans. Three plays later, Luth booted a 23 yard field goal. (He also connected on seven of his eight PAT kicks). Early in the second quarter, Luth dropped back to punt from his 20-yard line but Fred Trotta raced in to partially block it. After taking possession at the Amity 14, Nault pitched the ball to K.C. Horton for a five yard score and a 14-3 lead with 9:11 to go in the first half.
Burns grabbed the Guilford kickoff and raced 66 yards before being taken down from behind on a touchdown-saving tackle by Carson Sperry at the Indian 26. Two plays later Attolino shot through a huge hole in the middle of the field for an eight yard score that chopped Guilford’s lead to 14-10 with 7:50 left in the half.
It took Zergiebel exactly one play and 15 seconds to match that TD with his 63 yard jaunt at 7:35. After just two plays, Amity responded with a 64 yard throw from Semmonella to Ricks at 6:38, reducing the Guilford lead to 20-16.
Led by Attolino, Amity ended up with 17 first downs and 351 yards on the ground. Semmonella rambled for 94 yards on 13 carries and also completed eight of 18 passes for an additional 179 yards. Guilford compiled 14 first downs and 447 yards—all on the ground. Horton racked up 70 yards on his eight carries.
The 2-2 Spartans visit West Haven next Friday for a 7 p.m. SCC Division I contest at Ken Strong Stadium