MONARCHS 28, WARRIORS 6
The bleachers were empty and most the McGann-Mercy football players were on their way to the locker room. Near the north end zone, where moments earlier the players chanted “playoffs! playoffs!” with classmates who stormed the field, Reggie Archer and some his fellow seniors remained.
The joy of the moment gave way to a bittersweet reality: they had likely just played their final home game at McGann-Mercy High School.
For Archer, the last four years of varsity football came rushing back in his mind, a wave of emotions hitting him harder than any linebacker had in the game.
“We don’t get to the playoffs every year,” Archer said as he took off his helmet, wiping away tears. “So we really enjoy it when we get there. It’s really a struggle sometimes. It just feels good.”
The Monarchs’ 28-6 win over Wyandanch Friday night on homecoming lifted Mercy to a 4-3 record with one game left in the season. Four wins should be enough to lock Mercy into one of the top eight seeds in Division IV, propelling the Monarchs back into the playoffs for the second time in three years.
Archer was there two years ago, when the Monarchs celebrated a resurgence of the program with a season to remember.
“There are a couple guys, not just me — Andrew Glasgow, Ed Kneski — that played there and we just remember how special it was,” Archer said. “Without a doubt that’s what motivated us to want to get back there again.”
After last year’s struggles, a 1-7 season that ended with a forfeit win over Southampton, plenty of question marks surrounded the team coming into this year under a new coach. Now the Monarchs will be marching back into the playoffs.
“At the end of last season, we all talked and we basically said to each other the season starts now,” said Mercy quarterback KJ Santacroce. “It starts in the offseason. And I feel like we did a lot more offseason preparation and I feel like that’s been helping us out a lot.”
The Monarchs will get a taste of the playoffs next weekend when they travel to John Glenn to play the preseason No. 1 seed. The Knights are currently in second place in Division IV behind Shoreham-Wading River and could be a potential first-round playoff opponent for the Monarchs.
For Wyandanch, its season came to an end Friday. The Warriors dropped to 0-7, but will earn a forfeit win next week because Greenport canceled its final two games due to a lack of healthy players.
The Monarchs know what it’s like to see their season come up short like that. But that won’t be a problem this year.
After Friday’s game, as the players began to huddle up on the field to hear some final words from the coaches, dozens of Mercy students raced through the gate and ran onto the field. They sprinted toward the team, piling together to celebrate the victory.
“It’s like a big family,” Santacroce said. “Everyone comes out and cheers each other on.”
Santacroce threw a pair of touchdowns, both to junior Marco Sciara, who’s emerged this season as a legitimate threat in the passing game. Sciara caught five passes for 92 yards. He hauled in touchdown receptions of 6 and 23 yards for the Monarchs’ first two scores.
Archer added the final two touchdowns on runs of 5 and 13 yards; he also intercepted a pass in the second half. All the scoring came in the first half.
“We knew what was on the line,” Santacroce said. “I think the hardest part for us was this week was spirit week. Just to stay focused and not get too pumped up.”
Santacroce threw for 172 yards and completed 12 of 22 passes. He also rushed for 31 yards.
The Monarchs never got a consistent running game going, especially in the second half as the Warriors loaded up the line of scrimmage. Archer churned out 57 yards on 15 carries.
“Overall we got the win,” Santacroce said. “It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win.”
The Warriors’ only score came on a kickoff return for a touchdown that followed Mercy’s first touchdown. The Monarchs answered with 21 points in the second quarter to put the game away.
A Wyandanch player was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center following an on-field injury just before the end of the third quarter. The player appeared to have a broken ankle. Volunteers from Ridge Fire Department were on scene and stabilized his leg and put him onto a stretcher. He was carted off the field to await an ambulance. PBMC is right next to the Mercy football field.