HARWICH – The Monomoy Sharks gave it everything they had in a freezing cold Thanksgiving Day game against the St. John Paul II Lions, but in the end, in spite of a stellar performance, it was the visitors who came away with a 12-6 win.
The game marked the first time the two teams played each other on Thanksgiving Day. In years prior, the Sharks battled the Sacred Heart Saints. But when the Saints weren't able to field a team before Monomoy's schedule was completed, the matchup between the Lions and the Sharks was set.
The score certainly doesn't tell the whole story regarding the overall game, in which Monomoy head coach Larry Souza said his team was battling more than the opposing team.
“I just think we played on two fronts,” he said. “We played St. John Paul II, and we played the weather.”
Indeed, the weather was a huge factor in the outing, with players and fans watching from the bleachers doing their best to stay bundled against the wind, which altered game plans for both teams.
“The wind was a factor,” said Souza. “Neither team could pass. They didn't try to pass a lot. We tried, and it definitely affected us. That made it a really tight, competitive game.”
As Monomoy's offense struggled to work with Mother Nature's arctic blast, the defense worked to stop the opponents from scoring, managing to keep them at bay until a fluke play at the tail end of the first half led to the game's first touchdown.
With the Lions set to punt, the Sharks looked to block the kick, but a high snap changed the visiting team's plan as Darren Katziff opted to keep the ball, parlaying what he hoped would at least be a first down attempt into a 91-yard score, leaving a trail of frustrated Sharks in his wake. A failed two-point conversion left the score at 6-0 with the Lions up the half.
An interception led to the Lions second touchdown in the third. Meanwhile, a questionable re-kick call had coaches and fans on the Monomoy side fuming. Although the SJP2 punter clearly whiffed the ball on a kickoff, as seen by one of several officials in the game, his call that the kick was good was overruled by officials on the opposite side of the field, sparking a chorus of boos from the bleachers when a re-kick was ordered.
Monomoy remained determined even as the winds slashed across the turf, making it nearly impossible to kick or throw the ball. In the fourth quarter their tenacity paid off when quarterback Mark Pawlina connected with Elijah Beasley on a 20-yard pass that Beasley trotted into the end zone to put Monomoy on the scoreboard.
“I am proud of how the boys stood up and never quit despite the bone-chilling cold,” said Souza. “The one day we have to play a football game in the morning, it's the coldest day we've had all year.”
Souza had high praise for his seniors, which include Chevar Shakespeare, Kyle Charlot, Isaac Hart, Cam Coomber, Garret Gomes, and Chris Hall.
“I'd like to give a shoutout to all the seniors, several who played this whole season injured,” Souza said, referring to Shakespeare, who played the entire season with a severed ligament in his knee, Charlot, who battled hip and hamstring issues, and Hart, who suffered injuries to both hamstrings during the season. “Cam Coomber always gave us everything he had, and Garret Gomes forced a fumble during the game. Chris Hall never played the game before and just gave us a ton this year.”
Souza was also proud of how the team as a whole came together after a bumpy beginning. Souza is the fifth head coach since the program's inception and entered the season well aware of the challenges posed by the seemingly constant coaching changes. He expressed pride in his players for rising to the challenges.
“The overall team effort, the difference between this team and the beginning of the season, they just showed so much growth in coming together as a team,” Souza said. “With new coaching staff, a new system in place, it took a little while for us to get rolling, but I just think that over the season the kids came together and made one great big unit. I also feel like we have some great underclassmen in place and we're looking to improve going into next year.”
Shortly after the Thanksgiving Day game, the team chose its 2019 captains: Beasley, Tyler Potter, who has been a force this season, Noah Concordia, and Pawlina.
“I thought it was important to go into next season with captains who could get kids into the weight room and doing their off-season training,” Souza said. “It's a tough decision. It was all decided by the players and I think they made a good decision.”
The team will celebrate its 2018 season with its annual banquet this weekend, with emphasis on the positives beyond the scoreboard.
“I think overall as a team it was a much better season than the record indicates,” said Souza. “They had a good effort.”