Late-game dramatics lift Xaverian over Spellman

Late-game dramatics lift Xaverian over Spellman
Photo by Jon Farina

The Xaverian football team is saving the best for last.

The Clippers notched a late-game, 17–14 victory over Cardinal Spellman on Oct. 21 — sparked by Roberto Auguste’s eight-yard touchdown run with two minutes left — and the squad has settled into its reputation as a fourth-quarter team. It isn’t an easy way to play, but as long as the Clippers walk off the field with a win, the team isn’t too worried about how it got there.

“This team — it’s unbelievable how slow we start every game,” said coach Mike Jioia. “Eventually, it might come back to bite us, but we are slow, slow to start. That’s kind of the way the season has been going, just try and survive those plays.”

The Clippers struggled to get going early, despite a distinct advantage on possession. Xaverian’s defense forced four first-half turnovers, but the team couldn’t hit its stride on offense until the final minutes of the second quarter.

Auguste recovered a muffed punt at the 38-yard line — giving the Clippers optimal field position — and four players later, Julius Arcaro found Vincent Capalbo on a 35-yard strike for the first touchdown of the game.

Xaverian padded its lead with just over five minutes left in the third quarter — capping off an 11-play drive with a 38-yard field goal. It wasn’t quite enough, however, to settle the Clippers’ nerves, and the squad was frustrated not to find the end zone again.

“It’s supposed to be a ball-control offense, but there’s just little different pieces this year that aren’t the same as last year, and that’s kind of stalling the offense,” Jioia said.

Spellman responded on its ensuing drive, marching down the field in the waning minutes of the third and cutting into Xaverian’s lead with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jordi Mota to Eric Berrios. The Pilots took the lead in the opening minutes of the fourth when Justin Medina strip-sacked Arcaro deep in the backfield. Chris Vitale recovered the ball and dashed 25 yards into the end zone.

It was a wake-up call for the Clippers, and Arcaro quickly gathered his offense together, calling on the squad to bounce back.

“I told them just to keep blocking,” said Arcaro, who finished with 194 all-purpose yards. “Next play you’ve got to do your best. That’s the beautiful thing about football.”

The squads exchanged punts on the next two drives, but Xaverian answered the fourth-quarter call down the stretch — converting a pair of third downs before Auguste notched the game-winning touchdown with 2:06 left to play.

“I saw [Emanelle Olagungan], so I just knew I had to follow him and let him lead me to the end zone,” Auguste said. “All I knew was I had to go 100 miles per hour and just do my best to get in.”

Xaverian’s defense wrapped up the win — Dan DeSena and Alex Micciola both recorded sacks on Spellman’s final drive — and the victory is a huge boost of confidence for the reigning city champs. The Clippers have just one regular-season matchup left, but a win like this is a stepping stone towards defending the championship — even if it takes the entire game to do it.

“This one of those character kind of wins,” Jioia said. “We challenged them, and thankfully, they responded.”