HARWICH – The social media buzz was humming in the days leading up to Monomoy football's home opener Sept. 7 against Cape Tech, with fans from both camps boasting of potential victory. But after a short-lived bumpy start, Monomoy made it clear which was the team to watch as they battled to a 30-12 victory, Monomoy's first official win under new head coach Larry Souza.
For the majority of the first quarter, however, the game looked to belong to the visiting Crusaders who controlled the ball throughout, with Archer Estinvil marching the ball into the end zone for a quick score at the start of the second to put Tech ahead 6-0 after a failed two-point conversion.
But Monomoy wasn't giving up that easily and responded with two touchdowns in the second quarter, the first when quarterback Mark Pawlina ran the ball in from nine yards out, capping it off with a successful conversion, and the second when Elijah Beasley hauled in a 56-yard pass from Pawlina. While the Sharks' subsequent conversion failed, they took a 14-6 lead into the break.
“I really gotta give credit to Chris Leonard,” said Souza of Cape Tech's head coach. “They came out with a good game plan. They were going to keep the ball away from us because they knew we were dangerous with the ball. Luckily after the first quarter, in which they held the ball most of the time, our defense was able to play a little tighter and our kids never gave up. They kept going the whole time.”
“We drove that first eight minutes on the clock, but you've just gotta turn that into points right there,” Leonard said, adding that his team stumbled on costly fundamental errors. “You can be either a fast break offense or a slow roll offense, but you can't have those mental errors. You've just got to keep getting three, keep getting three and drive it straight down the field.”
Working against Tech were four fumbles and one interception.
Following the break came another score for the Sharks, this one courtesy of Bradley Alexis on an 11-yard pass from Pawlina, with Alexis also completing a successful conversion to boost Monomoy's lead to 22-6.
The Crusaders added a second TD in the final frame, with Monomoy answering with one more touchdown of its own from Isaac Hart, with Beasley on the conversion for the 30-12 final.
Pawlina finished with 162 yards passing, while Hart had 67 yards rushing and Beasley had 94 yards receiving in the win. Beasley also had 26 yards rushing, while Chris Hall had 30 yards receiving, Hart 27 and Alexis 11. Defensively Kyle Charlot had eight tackles, Hall four, Justin Sneed three and Jason Ready two.
In spite of the loss, Leonard felt his team put forth a solid effort.
“We brought a lot of pressure,” he said. “The offense worked. Archer had 100 yards rushing in the first half. Our backs were hitting it good. Kiki Estinvil was hitting it good. I think overall we played well, we just had those critical mistakes that held us back.”
Next up for Tech is their home opener Sept. 15 against Tri-County, beginning at 1 p.m.
“Tri-County's big,” said Leonard. “They've got a good running back so it's going to be a different game plan than the speed and the athletes of Monomoy. But we're going to bring it to 'em and play tough-nose football as always.”
Souza said one of Monomoy's best attributes was the combination of forces between Hart and Pawlina. He also added that defensive changes helped bolster the line against Tech's offense.
“I think the double threat of having Isaac Hart and Mark Pawlina in the backfield is a really big asset that we just can't work with enough,” he said. “I think we changed up some stuff, moved some people around, and we changed up the way we were doing things because we thought one thing and Tech threw us something different.”
Monomoy travels to Nauset tomorrow night (Sept. 14) for a 6 p.m. game against the Warriors.
“I think we've got to do a lot of work [before then],” said Souza. “We have a lot of things to change and work on in order to be better and be better prepared to face Nauset.”