Keep on fighting.
That was the message from Clarke Coach John Boyle, and his Clarke (1-2, 1-2) listened. Despite many players battling through a flu that has affected the team for the past week, the Rams were able to come from behind and score with 20 seconds left to secure a 27-20 victory over Island Trees (1-2, 1-2) at Saturday.
It was a ground-and-pound battle from the onset, as the Bulldogs controlled possession early. Michael Jeannetti was running the ball with relative ease, and Island Trees moved down to the Rams' 7-yard line. But Clarke would not break, as a big fourth down stand denied Island Trees.
"We could have broken multiple times," Clarke Coach John Boyle said. "We showed some real fight out there today."
The Bulldogs broke through first, as Jeannetti scored on a nine-yard touchdown run. Clarke answered quickly, though, as Mike Martiello connected with Anthony Gomes on a long pass that tied the game at 7-7, which was the score at the end of the first half.
"We just never gave up," Gomes said. "This kind of game can really help with momentum."
The Bulldogs regained the lead in the third quarter when Chris Pascalli scampered in from three yards out. For the second time, Clarke was quick to respond. Martiello found a wide open John Fogarty for a 65-yard touchdown, but a missed extra point kept Clarke behind 14-13.
The Bulldogs scored one more time in the third period, as Jeannetti ran in from seven yards out. A missed extra point by Island Trees left the score at 20-13. With six minutes remaining, the Bulldogs had a first-and-goal from Clarke's 1-yard line, but a fumble gave the Rams new life. Despite Clarke turning the ball over once again, a defensive stand gave them yet another life.
With 1:01 remaining, Mike Martiello ran one in from two yards out, but a failed two-point conversion kept the Rams behind 20-19.
The Rams had one more trick up their sleaves.
Anthony Gomes recovered an onside kick, and the comeback was on. Andrew Eanucci found an opening in the end zone, and Mike Martiello found him to give the Rams a 27-20 win.
"It felt great," Gomes, who recovered the onside kick, said. "I just saw the kid fumble, and I pounced on the ball. What a win!"
Jeannetti knew that Island Trees' defense could have stood taller in the end.
"We couldn't come up with a stop," he said. "We played solid in the first half, but we didn't later. If we're clicking on all cylinders, nobody can beat us."
Clarke returns to action on Oct. 1 at 3 p.m., and Island Trees will do battle with Locust Valley on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m.