HARWICH – Although it's been a week since the Monomoy Sharks defeated the St. John Paul II Lions 19-6 in their second Thanksgiving game, it's likely that senior Zach Parker is still smiling, and with good reason: it was Parker's 65-yard touchdown that ignited the spark leading the Sharks to victory.
“They did a great job,” said head coach Larry Souza. “I think we finally played the way we knew we could play all year. We put it together and we did a really great job.”
Though the game was relocated from the Lions' home field at Mass Maritime due to turf issues, the winds whipped in similar fashion to the Upper Cape venue, accompanied by driving rain, but the Sharks paid no mind to either in their determination to earn one last “W.”
It all started in the second half with Parker's impressive scoring run. As the rain poured down in sheets driven by high winds, Parker paid no mind and kept his focus on the on-field action, watching as the second-half kickoff bounced his way.
In a flash, Parker snagged the ball, then blasted his way through the first wave of SJP2 defenders before sprinting mightily toward the end-zone for the 65-yard touchdown that was capped off by a near-perfect kick from Graham Papenfuhs that gave Monomoy a 7-6 lead.
“We've always known he's had that speed,” Souza said. “It was great to see him be able to utilize it and get in the end zone.”
It was an edge they'd continue to sharpen throughout the game's remainder courtesy of two more touchdowns, both from senior Elijah Beasley, with more than a little help from fellow senior David Malone who had not one but two key interceptions in the outing.
After Parker's run, the Lions mounted what seemed to be a pointed response, but a holding penalty kept them away from the goal line, and after two incomplete passes, the ball was back in Shark possession. For the remainder of the third quarter, Monomoy worked on marching the ball within scoring range, with Beasley adding a nice 26-yard rush before the buzzer sounded to end the frame.
With the ball still on Monomoy's hands to start the fourth, Beasley took off on a 43-yard run that saw him dodge a few SJP2 defenders before breaking free as he crossed the line. Although the winds forced the kick into the post, the Sharks now held a 13-6 lead.
That's when David Malone stepped up and in a big way, intercepting a pass from SJP2's Aaron Cole, the first of two picks he'd make in the final frame. After another pair of plays, it was Beasley's time again, this time with a 40-yard dash into the end zone to give Monomoy a 19-6 edge.
Malone's second interception came with less than four minutes in the game, with the Sharks holding onto the ball until the final horn.
“Props to Beasley with two touchdowns, Tyler Potter with a lot of runs, and Rory ran probably more tonight than he's ever run,” said Souza. “And David Malone, how about that? Coming off the soccer team, never played football in his life, two picks in the biggest game. It was just excellent.”
“It feels awesome,” said Parker. “This season we didn't win a lot, but this last home game with my family – that's a family right there, they're all my brothers – kicking it off with them, changing the game, getting the win... I feel awesome.”
Parker said that being part of the program has meant the world to him.
“I said yesterday in my team speech, some of these kids I'd never seen before. I'd walk past them in the halls,” he said. “But then, on the football team, I meet them and these are some cool kids. These are my friends. I'm going to remember them all the way through, even when I'm 50.”
“This is really the biggest game,” said Souza. “There's just something about this game that for all these kids and the coaches, I had butterflies all morning.”
Malone, who played football for the first time this season after years of soccer and was given the game ball after the match, said the experience was amazing.
“It's meant a lot to me,” he said. “There's been a lot of ups and downs, but we're a group of brothers. “Getting the game ball and them making me feel special like I contributed a lot to this team. They're my brothers now. I'm going to cherish this forever.”
Senior quarterback and team captain Noah Concordia echoed the sentiments of Parker and Malone.
“I'm going to miss pretty much everything,” he said. “All the practices, being out in the sun in the summertime working on the team, all the chemistry. I had a lot of good times here.”
Beasley, also a team captain and senior, has played for the Sharks throughout his high school career. For him, the final win was emotional.
“I'll miss the coaches, the family, the bonds we have,” he said. “And then the game itself. I'm definitely going to miss that. It's going to be weird to not wake up and have to go to football practice every again.”
Beasley said Parker's TD was the game changer.
“Zach scored and then we stopped them on defense and got the interception,” he said. “I scored the first one and thought, 'There's no way we're letting this slip.' We got the ball again, put in the second one and I knew the game was over then and there.”
For the seniors, a bittersweet ending. But for the team's juniors, including team captain Tyler Potter, who was instrumental on defense and had some solid minutes on the ground offensively, thoughts are already turning to next season.
“I think one thing we need to focus on is getting kids in the weight room, working hard and building good chemistry” Potter said. “And showing good leadership. I'm pumped. I love football so much and I know I'm doing to do really great things next year.”