By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
Editor’s note: This story first appeared on News12varsity.com
Central Valley – Jimmy Carter served as President of the U.S. ESPN launched what would become its signature show: Sports Center. A McDonalds Happy Meal went for $1.00 even.
The year was 1979. In Warwick, many fans remember 1979 as the last year their beloved Wildcats beat Monroe-Woodbury in football. That’s what made Warwick’s 14-13 non-league win over Monroe-Woodbury so thrilling.
Warwick ended nearly 40 years of futility against the Crusaders with the help of senior wide receiver/defensive back Connor Perez and a gritty defense. Perez, a senior, caught two touchdown passes from Jared Senius and sealed the game with an interception in the closing minute.
“It is an incredible feeling,” said Perez, who had 143 receiving yards. “I can’t even put it into words. Wow. I have never felt like this playing sports in my entire life. This is crazy. This team is special. They are something else and I have never had a team like this.”
Perez spoke to a reporter while his team celebrated the historic win near the Warwick sideline with coach Greg Sirico and his staff. Many players chanted “Shock the Section (9).” The Wildcats (1-0) lost to Monroe-Woodbury twice last season, including a defeat in the Class AA playoff quarterfinals.
Monroe-Woodbury struck first on a balmy opening night on a 52-yard touchdown run by back-up quarterback Bradley Byrnes. Byrnes did not play for the Crusaders last season, instead concentrating on track. He was the Crusaders’ starting jayvee quarterback in 2014, putting up 13 all-purpose touchdowns.
Starting quarterback Steven Campione and three other projected Monroe-Woodbury starters, wide receiver Johnny McCormick and offensive linemen Caleb Yoo and Jayden Prina, did not play against Warwick. According to several sources, the foursome sat out as a result of disciplinary action.
Asked about the four players after the game, Monroe-Woodbury coach Ryan Baldock said: “Nobody was suspended and I don’t discuss personnel decision at all. We had 11 starters at the start of the game. This was the first regular-season game of the year. Those were the 11 starters.”
Warwick tied the game at 7-7 on a 4-yard pass from Senius to Perez with 5:37 remaining in the first half. The pair connected on a 33-yard score just four minutes later to make it 14-7. Tyler Toledo’s 13-yard interception return for a touchdown pulled Monroe-Woodbury to within 14-13 midway through the third quarter, but the Crusaders missed the extra point.
Monroe-Woodbury had one last chance to win the game, starting its last drive at its own 29-yard line with 2:44 remaining. The Crusaders advanced to Warwick’s 29-yard line, but Perez intercepted a short pass near the Monroe-Woodbury sideline on a 2nd-and-10 play with 37 seconds remaining, setting off a celebration that was four decades in the making.
“We have wanted to break this streak for a long, long time,” Sirico said. “We got it done and we are proud of our team tonight. We’re a young team, people don’t realize this, but this is a tough team. I’m proud of them. It’s a great start for us, but it doesn’t mean nothing if we don’t get that Spirit Trophy (against Goshen). That game is coming up next week.”