Entering the 2012 season, Bishop McGann-Mercy football teams had qualified for the playoffs twice, in 2008 and before that, in 1991.
Better make that three.
The Monarchs secured a playoff berth for the third time in 21 years with an emphatic 27-14 victory over The Stony Brook School Friday night in Stony Brook, improving to 6-1 in Suffolk County Division IV.
Junior quarterback Asaiah Wilson threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score to lead the Monarchs. Sophomore running back Reggie Archer ran for 162 yards on 24 carries and had the other touchdown for Mercy.
“The game plan coming in was to run the ball down their throat,” said Wilson, who completed 5 of 7 passes for 115 yards while rushing for 23 yards. “But after we ran it, and ran it, and ran it, the secondary backed up, and I found some open spots.”
The victory will propel the Monarchs past the Bears (5-2) in the Division IV standings into at least fifth place, behind 5-1 Hampton Bays, which hosts 2-4 Wyandanch on Saturday. The following week, Mercy hosts 2-4 East Hampton, while Hampton Bays hosts 5-1 Mount Sinai; a Monarchs win and a Hampton Bays loss would give the Monarchs home field in the first round of the playoffs.
“If we win we’ll be 7-1, and we’re definitely not going to play a top seed,” said senior Jack Strnad. “It’ll be nice to bring it for the home crowd.”
It’s pretty heady stuff for a program that has been on the outside looking in for so many postseasons.
“For a long time here, that attitude and winning spirit hasn’t been around Mercy, and these guys have brought it back,” said coach Jeff Doroski, who was a member of that 1991 team. “I get e-mails, I get phone calls, ‘Hey coach, you guys are doing great.’ It’s exciting for the school, and it’s exciting for the kids.”
Doroski noted that the regular-season finale is also senior night, and said the seniors have laid the foundation for a program that should remain competitive.
“This is where we want to be, year in and year out in this division, competing for a playoff spot,” Doroski said. “And going into Week 8 with a 6-1 record is really special for us.”
The Monarchs dominated the first half, grabbing a 20-0 halftime advantage while outgaining the Bears, 212 yards to 51. Mercy forced four punts in the half and held the Bears to just four first downs.
Archer opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 68-yard touchdown run, breaking around the left side and outrunning the Bears defense down the sideline. In the second quarter, Wilson hit sophomore Andrew Glasgow over the middle for a 37-yard touchdown pass that gave the Monarchs a 14-0 lead.
Interceptions by Tom Kent and Wilson kept the Bears from mounting a counterattack, and the latter pick gave the Monarchs the ball at the Stony Brook 37 yard-line with 32 seconds left before halftime. On second down, Wilson found freshman wideout Mario Sciara for a 36-yard gain to the one, and two plays later, Wilson ran it in himself.
Mercy took the opening kickoff of the third quarter and quickly went ahead, 27-0, with a five-play, 57-yard drive capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Sciara.
Doroski noted that Sciara was called up from the junior varsity to help diversify Mercy’s offensive attack.
“He gives us another weapon,” Doroski said. “He’s a taller guy, he can go and get the ball, he’s got good hands, he blocks well on the perimeter. We like what he does for us out there.”
The Bears scored twice in the game’s final five minutes, first on a touchdown pass from Marco Masakayan to Tyler Hoegsberg, and after a Mercy fumble, on a five-yard run by Don Liotine (24 carries, 117 yards).
The victory was the perfect tonic after a shutout loss to Shoreham-Wading River in Week 6. Doroski said he was proud of how the team bounced back, particularly Wilson.
“He didn’t have a great game last week, and he took the loss hard,” the coach said. “But he worked hard in practice and got back after it. It’s only his first year playing the position, but he’s starting to see things better on the field, and know where he needs to put the ball. It’s nice to see his development.”