MONARCHS 28, PORTERS 23
Amid the jubilation on Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School’s soft, muddy Harold T. Murray Memorial Field, Keith Schroeher received a piece of advice from one of the Monarchs’ assistant coaches. That coach, who also happens to be Schroeher’s father and goes by the same first name, urged his son to look at the scoreboard, look at the field, and take in the scene.
It was a lot for the younger Schroeher to commit to his memory bank, a lot of good stuff.
Schroeher saved his best for last. His final high school football game was his best, he said, and who could argue the point?
Because of a troublesome ankle, the Monarchs didn’t have Pat Stepnoski, who is generally regarded as the team’s best player, so they turned to Schroeher in their final game of the season. Schroeher, one of the team’s 10 seniors who were recognized in a ceremony before the game, responded in a big way. He was involved in four touchdowns, throwing three touchdown passes within a span of 2 minutes 4 seconds late in the second quarter of a 28-23 defeat of Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island on Friday night.
“It’s nice to see him have a game like that on Senior Night in a big rivalry type game against Greenport,” said Jeff Doroski, whose first season as the McGann-Mercy coach ended with a 3-5 record in Suffolk County Division IV. “To make that the last memory he’s going to have of Mercy football, you can’t ask for much more than that.”
On a night when the Monarchs needed to go to the air, Schroeher was the difference-maker. He did much of his damage during that 124-second span in the second quarter when the game changed.
Schroeher connected on touchdown passes of 35 yards to Reggie Archer and 30 yards to Mario Burriesci within 26 seconds of each other, giving McGann-Mercy a 22-16 lead. In between those scores was an onside kick by Schroeher that Bernard Schrage collected for the Monarchs.
Then, after a Greenport punt hit the back of a lineman and was recovered by Christian Lynch at the Greenport 35-yard line, Schroeher found a streaking Schrage down the middle for a scoring play of that distance with 6.9 seconds left in the half, making the score 28-16.
“He really kind of carried us offensively, delivering the ball to guys and putting the ball in places where they could make plays,” said Doroski,
Earlier, Schroeher had scrambled six yards for McGann-Mercy’s first touchdown. He also ran in a pair of two-point conversions.
Schroeher was 8 of 16 passing for 165 yards and no interceptions. (By contrast, Greenport did not complete a single pass in eight attempts.)
It was Schroeher’s inspired play that helped the Monarchs overcome 11 penalties that cost them 109 yards.
“Every team has more than one weapon,” Greenport senior Ryan Malone said. “As you can see, they have more than one weapon.”
Malone ran for two touchdowns and gathered 236 yards from 39 carries. The Porters (1-7) totaled 287 yards worth of offense.
Tomasz Filipkowski ran in Greenport’s first touchdown.
Malone said he was trying to make the most of his final high school game “because this is never going to happen again. This is it, so [try] taking every single memory of every single moment. I think I did.”
Malone ran for his second touchdown of the game 3:02 into the third quarter. Greg Fedun’s extra point made it a five-point game. But that was as close as Greenport got as the McGann-Mercy defense held tough. That defense was spearheaded by Jack Strnad, who had 11 tackles and a sack.
“He’s great,” Schroeher said. “You tell him to run through a brick wall, he’ll do it for you — if he likes you.”
Despite the fact that both teams didn’t have playoffs to play for, they brought intensity. That was evidenced by a fight on the field that led to the ejections of Greenport’s Ray Thilberg and McGann-Mercy’s Paolo Foscolo with 3:14 left in the first quarter.
“You never like to see anything like that, but it is intense,” Doroski said. “Those guys are fighting to improve themselves. We’re fighting to get better. Sometimes your emotions get the best of you out there, and unfortunately situations like that happen.”
Being that it is a rivalry game may have played into it, too. In addition, there is a connection between the two programs in Ken Marelli. The McGann-Mercy assistant coach is a former Greenport head coach.
A fumble recovery by Codey Fisher gave Greenport the ball at its own 42 with 2:06 remaining in the game. But the Porters lost yards on that series before McGann-Mercy’s Rudfil Paul Jr.’s interception with 57.1 seconds left allowed the Monarchs to run out the clock.
“We didn’t get as may wins as we wanted, to be certain, but I think just watching the game anyone could see we’ve come a long way,” said Greenport coach Jack Martilotta, who says goodbye to four seniors with multiple years of varsity experience in Zach Apleskog, Connor Guditus, Fedun and Malone. “The kids are playing much better football. It’s going to hurt to lose those four kids, but we’ve got a real good nucleus of kids coming back next year. I’m expecting big things.”
Schroeher will not be around next year to see how the Monarchs progress. That thought had not really sunk in for him a half-hour after the game. The excitement of victory hadn’t had a chance to wear off.
“I’m going to miss it,” he said. “It hasn’t really hit me yet because I’m all amped up, but once I get in the car and I feel all the bumps and bruises, I’m going be like, ‘Damn, it’s over.’ ”