Having coached football at Mount St. Michael for a quarter century, Mario Valentini has a pretty good handle on what is needed to win in the CHSFL.
“There comes a point in every game where you have to make some plays,” Valentini said. “As I told the kids, a lot of times five or six plays makes a difference in the game.”
On Saturday at Promuto Stadium, Holy Cross senior Terrence Coon made almost every one in the Knights’ 16-14 victory.
Coon scored one of his team’s two touchdowns, came up with a huge interception with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter at Cross’ 10-yard line and stretched across for what should have been a game-clinching first down 20 seconds later.
“He’s a playmaker. There’s a lot to be said about being a coach’s son, having a brother (Tyrell) go through the program,” Holy Cross coach Tom Pugh said. “He understands the game. A lot of kids today don’t understand the game. They understand how to play, but they don’t understand the game. He knows to be in the right spot at the right time.”
That explains how Coon, who plays on both sides of the ball, knew to run toward Mount receiver Thomas Cardona on fourth-and-12. Max Otano’s long bomb down the sideline deflected off the hands of Holy Cross defensive back Dean Marlowe and into the arms of Cardona. The senior bobbled the ball for what seemed like an eternity. Four juggles of the football later, Coon came up with the ball.
“I thought he was going to catch it honestly because he was juggling it and he had it in his hands and popped it up,” Coon said. “I knew I had to make a play on the ball in order to get the ball to the offense.”
It was the defining moment in a hard-fought, but sloppy game played by both teams.
“The ball tipped up, he was kind of stumbling and tried to tip it back up and for one second it looked like he had it, but the ball bounced up again,” Valentini said. “That’s the difference – inches.”
Three players later, Coon appeared to wrap up a critical victory for Holy Cross (2-4, 2-2 CHSFL), which had lost three straight games, when he lunged forward for a first down. But the Knights were victimized by a bad spot and instead had to kick away on fourth-and-inches, giving Mount (2-4, 2-2) one more chance.
“Ten years ago maybe I would have gone for it on fourth down. Last year I might have gone for it,” Pugh said. “If our record was better and we assured ourselves a spot (in the ‘AAA’ playoffs), I would have gone for it. Let’s end it here. I’ve done that many times. But it’s not a championship game, not a playoff game and it’s a game where we need to get ourselves back on track to get into the playoffs.”
The Mountaineers took over with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter and drove to the Holy Cross 28-yard line, but Otano was sacked by Omahe Uwa and then Mount was flagged for an illegal shift, a penalty Holy Cross declined to end a must-win game for the Knights.
Nick Lamonaca kicked a 25-yard field goal to open the scoring and Eddie Cox returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to put Mount in front, 7-3. Jarred Evans then hit Devon Cajuce for a 14-yard touchdown pass and the Knights went back in front, 10-7.
Evans tossed a perfect pass in the back corner of the end zone to Coon for an 18-yard score and Holy Cross led, 16-7, at the end of the first half.
“He’s a playmaker — he scores touchdowns, makes interceptions on defense, makes tackles,” Francklin said. “He’s doing his thing.”