By Sean Lynch
Section 9 Football Insider Staff
WARWICK — The Goshen sideline was filled with jubilation after their 14-7 Spirit Trophy victory at Warwick. It was their first victory over the Wildcats since 2003.
Many parents hopped the fence to join in on the celebrations, some had older sons who couldn’t accomplish what their younger sons just did — beat Warwick (4-2).
With the win, Goshen (5-1) snaps a 13 game losing streak against Warwick, dating back to 2004. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 55-47-4. The Spirit Trophy rivalry is the second-oldest rivalry in New York State, behind Rome Free Academy and Utica Proctor, which began in 1891.
The Gladiators started off slow, allowing a touchdown on the Wildcats opening drive of the game on an end-around play to Gregory Sirico. Their next drive, the Wildcats marched down the field drive, only to have a 19-yard field goal blocked by Jared Weaver.
Three plays after the blocked field goal, Goshen quarterback Matt Giordano fired an 82-yard touchdown to Jake Kunis, who finished with five catches for 109 yards.
Kunis missed practice the entire week with a shoulder injury, and in the second quarter was hit hard on a shoulder-to-shoulder tackle by Warwick linebacker Rob Maslanka. It looked as if he would miss the rest of the game, instead he only missed three plays.
“It’s the Spirit Trophy Game; there’s nothing that could take me out of this game,” Kunis said. “We had this game marked on our calendars all year-long, and to come out on top after losing it for so long is a surreal feeling.”
After a missed extra point, the Gladiators trailed 7-6 at halftime. On Warwick’s opening second half drive, Junior cornerback Elijah Price forced a fumble and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown. Giordano threw a dart to Kunis on a slant route for a successful two point conversion, taking the lead 14-7.
“I saw the ball was a little loose in his hands and stripped it,” Price said. “Once I got the ball I saw plenty of grass, and all I thought about was, I’m scoring this touchdown.”
It was Price’s first Spirit Trophy game, and one he’ll never forget.
“The atmosphere out there was unreal, it was something I’ve never been apart of before and it’ll be something I never forget,” he said with a glistening smile.
For Matt Giordano, the game meant two things. Revenge from last season’s 28-21 Spirit Trophy loss and bragging rights to his two older brothers, Tom and Joe, who never won a Spirit Trophy game in their six years with the Gladiators.
“Ever since we lost to them last season, I had this year’s game marked down on the schedule,” Giordano said. “This is a huge win for not only the football program, but the entire town.”
Giordano finished the game 18-of-24 for 211 yards and a touchdown pass.
“Tom and Joe were texting me before the game telling me that they don’t care if they never won it, they just wanted the trophy back in Goshen,” he added.
The Gladiators defense was phenomenal, holding Warwick scoreless after its opening drive touchdown. Gladiators Head Coach Ed Killenberger was so confident in his defense, that he decided to go for it on 4th-and-goal on the Warwick 1-yard-line with his team up only seven points in the fourth quarter.
The Gladiators turned the ball over on downs, giving the Wildcats one final chance to tie the game. Led by quarterback Joey Miller and running back Kyle Rooney, the Wildcats put together an 11 play, 64 yard drive that resulted in a turnover-on-downs with less than a minute left.
“We were really confident we would execute on that fourth down,” Killenberger said. “When we didn’t convert, I had a feeling our defense would give us one final stop and they did. They were huge for us all night.”
Kunis, Giordano, and Price all echoed one similar remark, tonight’s victory wasn’t just a great win for the program, but for the entire town. For the first time in 14 years, the Spirit Trophy will rest in Goshen.