HARWICH – Thanksgiving came early for the Monomoy and St. John Paul II football teams.
The rivals met in an early preview of their Thanksgiving morning clash Friday night at Monomoy Regional High School, and they provided their respective fan bases with an exciting back-and-forth affair complete with plenty of highlights that will long be remembered.
Although it was the host Sharks that got on the scoreboard first, the visiting Lions went home with a 22-6 victory after using their passing attack to move the chains and maintain possessions.
“It’s never an easy pill to swallow when you think you should be better than the team you’re playing,” Monomoy coach Larry Souza said after his team fell to 2-1. “It’s difficult when we don’t do the things we need to get done.”
Sophomore quarterback Jake Vagenas gave the Sharks a 6-0 lead with a four-yard touchdown run with 9:45 remaining in the first half, but it was the Lions (2-1) who went into halftime with an advantage after scoring back-to-back touchdowns within 1:25 of each other.
St. John Paul II senior signal-caller Mike Spadaro’s first touchdown pass came on a 34-yard toss to junior Kyle Jaquello. The quarterback connected with sophomore Daniel Cordeiro through the air for a 2-point conversion to give the visitors an 8-6 lead with 2:11 remaining in the second quarter.
Less than 1:30 later, Spadaro hit Cordeiro on a 28-yard touchdown pass to put St. John Paul II in front, 14-6, after a failed 2-point conversion.
“Our quarterback started out rocky because he was throwing off his back foot, but he kept his composure and trusted his line and they all played well,” St. John Paul II coach Joe Bentley said.
It didn’t get any easier for Monomoy’s defense in the second half, however — the unit was forced to stay on the field for the entire third quarter while Spadaro and St. John Paul II’s offense maintained a lengthy drive.
In all, the Lions ran 18 plays during the third quarter and advanced the ball all the way to the Shark’s five-yard line by the end of the frame.
Monomoy’s defense ultimately stood tall to halt the drive at the start of the fourth quarter as it forced back-to-back incompletions on third and fourth downs after 20 consecutive plays by the St. John Paul II offense.
“It’s the unity of this team that does that,” Souza said.
The Sharks’ offense was unable to convert a first down on its ensuing possession, as it gave the ball back to the Lions after four plays. Souza said much of his offense was exhausted after being on the field during the Lions’ 20-play drive.
“When you have a small team and you have those kids on the field for 12 minutes and then we get the ball back and they have to jump over to the other side of the ball and play offense, they’re tired,” he said. “It was really tough.”
St. John Paul II added one more touchdown – a four-yard run by Henry Tatara – with 8:52 remaining. Spadaro found Cordeiro again for a 2-point conversion to give the Lions a 22-6 lead.
Although Souza and the Sharks were disappointed to suffer their first loss of the season, what happened in the aftermath made what transpired on the field sting a bit more. At the conclusion of the game, the majority of St. John Paul II players ran from the visiting sideline across the field to the MRHS bleachers.
The Lions players jumped and shouted in unison with the St. John Paul II fans in the stands. A few St. John Paul II players and coaches tried to get the group back onto the field to shake the Monomoy players and coaches’ hands at the 50-yard line but were unable to do so before the Sharks departed to the end zone for their postgame meeting.
“It was kind of upsetting the way they celebrated on our sideline,” Souza said. “To me, it’s a very classless thing to see. It was unfortunate and I was hurt for my kids because my kids were standing there trying to contain themselves.”
Bentley said his team was excited to play in front of a packed crowd, something it didn’t experience when Monomoy earned an 8-6 victory this past spring during the Fall II season, which was played in front of a limited capacity due to COVID-19.
“You saw the excitement with the fans – we didn’t get that last year, so it was great,” Bentley said. “Our guys fed off it.”
Souza said his players are already looking forward to playing St. John Paul II in a rematch on Thanksgiving morning.
“That will be huge,” he said. “And we’ll be on their field.”
The Sharks are off Friday before picking up their hybrid schedule next week. They will visit Nantucket for a matchup against the Whalers’ junior varsity team at 4 p.m. Oct. 11 before returning home to host Avon-Holbrook’s varsity at 6 p.m. Oct 15.
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com.