Eagles lose heartbreaker in final four for second year in a row
By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
Middletown — It’s a trick play that you might draw up with your Uncle Larry at your Thanksgiving Day football game next week.
However, on Saturday, it helped Holy Trinity of Troy hold off Burke Catholic 28-23 for a dramatic come-from-behind win in the Class C state semifinals at rainy Faller Field. The Eagles (9-2) led Holy Trinity by 10 points entering the fourth quarter.
The gutsy call by coach John Barber that sealed it for Holy Trinity (10-1) is certainly worthy of making SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays. Facing a third down-and-eight from its own 30-yard line with about 2:30 remaining, Holy Trinity sophomore quarterback Joe Tortello hit Jordan Mettler up the middle. Mettler pitched it to Nacier Hundley, who threw a lateral to Nelon Priest near the far sideline.
The lateral enabled Holy Trinity to gain a first down. Meanwhile, Burke Catholic, which only had one timeout remaining, could not do much more to stop the clock. After the play, Burke Catholic coach Aaron Hasbrouck complained that Hundley’s lateral was actually a forward pass, which would be illegal.
“I have to take a look at it on film,” said a more subdued Hasbrouck after the game. “I know it’s hard. The referees have a tough job, they do an outstanding job. I thought that it could have been a forward pass.”
Added Burke Catholic linebacker Mark Przybocki: “I was right there. It was a forward pass, but the call was made on the field.”
Barber said he learned the play that had Faller buzzing when he was an assistant under Joe King at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
“We’ve run it for 12 weeks in practice now,” Barber said. “They have been asking me when are we going to run it? We finally pulled it out and the kids executed it perfectly. I’m very excited.”
Burke Catholic was making its second consecutive appearance in the Class C state semifinals. The Eagles gave up an eight-point halftime lead, losing to Ogdensburg Free Academy 35-28 last season. Burke Catholic trailed Holy Trinity 7-3 at halftime, but scored touchdowns on runs by Solomon Hemingway (12 and 17 yards) on its first two drives of the second half to go up 17-7.
Przybocki, who played quarterback in the Wildcat formation for much of the game, replacing Heath Hoovler, rushed for 108 yards. David Ross had 95 yards and Hemingway had 62 yards, finishing the postseason with nine scores. Holy Trinity pulled to within 17-14 on a 2-yard run by Cameron Kiser on the second play of the fourth quarter,
A swing pass from Tortello to Noah Forster with 6:53 left gave the Pride a 21-17 lead. The Holy Trinity drive was kept alive on a pass interference call on Burke Catholic on a third-and-eight play.
“The pass interference was obviously a big play,” Hasbrouck said. “I think in a final four game on a third down play, that’s a tough call to make. But, again, I wouldn’t want their job. I think they do a good job, but unfortunately those were two calls that went against us.”
Holy Trinity went up 28-17 when Tortello hit Hundley for a 57-yard score with 3:35 remaining. Tortello connected with Hundley on a 10-yard slant and broke free for Holy Trinity’s third score of the fourth. Ross scored on a 4-yard run with 2:52 remaining and the Eagles just missed recovering an onside kick that would have given them the ball in Holy Trinity territory.
Holy Trinity moves on to play Skaneateles for the Class C state championship at 6 p.m. on Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Skaneateles beat Cleveland Hill 63-56 in the other Class C semifinal on Saturday.
“I’m heartbroken,” Przybocki said. “After those two scores in the second half, we were feeling good. But they made plays in the fourth quarter and we didn’t. That’s what it comes down to.”