Staples Wrecks McMahon’s Upset Bid

By Julian Clarke ’12
Managing Editor

Fourth and eight. Staples sits on the Brien McMahon 14-yard-line, down by two scores with seven minutes and change left in the fourth quarter.

In effect, the game would be won or lost on this play.

Jack Massie ’14 had struggled in the first half of the game, in large part because of a lack of protection for him. The Senators had gained a 14–0 lead by the end of the half.

“Our offensive line had some miscues, so McMahon’s defense was able to get right through to us and keep us to short gains out of backfield,” said Joey Zelkowitz ’13, who had 129 all-purpose yards on the game.

On this play, however, Massie threw a line drive to wideout James Frusciante ’13. It was tipped by a McMahon defensive back and put up in the air. Under intense concentration, Frusciante corralled the ball with one hand. All Staples needed was eight, but the junior wideout was on a beeline for the pylon—he got all 14 yards and brought the Wreckers to within seven.

“I really had no idea what happened on that play,” Frusciante said. “I thought the corner had picked it off but then I saw it in front of me and I grabbed it and reached it over the goal line.”

The comeback begins.

On the ensuing McMahon drive, quarterback Damien Vega, a three-year-starter who had shown his veteran leadership throughout the game made his first and only mistake. He threw the ball in the general direction of Greg Strauss ’13.

Strauss picked off the errant throw and brought it back to the McMahon 30-yard-line. It took Massie only a few plays to score, running it in 10 yards himself on a designed quarterback option. After a Robbie Wolf ’12 extra point, the Wreckers were tied. Fourteen unanswered points is special, but the game was far from over.

The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds and yielded great field position for the Senators, who would only need a field goal to ensure the victory. Staples, however, played phenomenal defense to bring McMahon to fourth and two. McMahon running back Chris Jerome gave the Senators another life, moving the chains. Despite this play to give McMahon some much needed momentum, a holding call pushed them back 15 yards to make it first and 25. Three defensive stops and a McMahon punt later, the Wreckers had the ball at their own 27 with 49 ticks left in the game.

For those who had doubts about Massie’s talent and ability to quarterback a team as a sophomore, this drive caused them to change their minds.

“The credit goes to the offensive-line, a good catch by Heil, and an amazing run by Frusicante,” Massie said. “I really didn’t need to do that much I just put the ball into the hands of our playmakers.”

He’s modest, too.

“They were just two more big plays that really added to our momentum,” Heil said. “Once we get started it’s hard to stop us.”

A 20-yard pass to Jon Heil ’12 and a 43-yard pass to Frusciante later, the Wreckers were within five yards of the end zone with 20 seconds left.

And stop, they didn’t. Wolf booted a 19-yarder through the uprights to give Staples the 24–21 advantage with two seconds left on the clock.

The rest was just a formality. After the kickoff, the Senators had one last play to run where they threw the ball around the field in a desperate attempt to score and didn’t execute.

“It was a group effort,” Zelkowitz said. “We were all trying to keep each other fired up and focused so we could pull out the win. We had two really nice plays from Heil and Frusciante that set us up for the victory.”

The first half was a bit irksome for Staples, as they allowed 14 unanswered points and couldn’t get the ball rolling on offense, but a productive halftime led them to fix issues and gain some much needed confidence.

“We started the game off too flat against a good team and we missed assignments,” Heil said. “But the most important thing about our team is that we have trust in our coaches and each other, which allowed us to identify and fix the problems from the first half. We came out in the third quarter with confidence and we persevered.”

Staples 24, Brien McMahon 21

S 0 0 7 17—24

M 0 14 7 0—21

M—Marc Lugo 10 yard run, Jamie Restivo kick (7-0)

M—Chris Jerome 57 yard pass from Damien Vega, Restivo kick (14-0)

S—Nick Kelly 4 yard run, Robbie Wolf kick (14-7)

M—Lugo 7 yard run, Restivo kick (21-7)

S—James Frusciante 14 yard pass from Jack Massie, Wolf kick (21-14)

S—Massie 10 yard run, Wolf kick (21-21)

S—Wolf 19 yard FG (24-21)

Records: Staples 3-0 (3-0 FCIAC); McMahon 1-2 (1-2)