Heading to Sparta for the Week 1 opener had its challenges. The defending champs were ranked as one of the Top 25 teams in the state, they have one of the best running attack’s around and their fans are extremely passionate. But Roxbury junior kicker Jack Clevenger said that didn’t matter. “We had a lot of confidence coming into this game. We prepared all week and felt like we had their offense down.”
Heading into halftime 0-14, it appeared to onlookers that Sparta was back to their championship form. But the Gaels were not even close to thinking this game was over. “Coach Lorusso told us the second half would determine what kind of people we were.” Clevenger said of their halftime mentality.
Sparta would score another touchdown to make the deficit 0-21. Then the Gaels would get to work. Then Grant Dixon threw a touchdown pass. Then Max Russ intercepted a pass. Dixon threw another touchdown pass. Then Tommy Miller picked off another Sparta pass. Then Dixon threw yet another touchdown pass. Before you knew it, the Gaels climbed back to tie the contest at 21-21.
Late in the forth quarter with Roxbury driving deep in Sparta territory and time dwindling down, Coach Lorusso turned the game over to Clevenger to seal the deal. With a few ticks on the clock, Clevenger lined up from 27 yards and, with everyone on their feet, sailed it through the uprights for the unlikely come from behind victory.
Clevenger’s last second heroics has earned him Morris Sussex Football’s Week 1 Player of the Week. MSF caught up with Clevenger to talk about this game, the make up of his team and who he looks up to as a role model.
Morris Sussex Football: What kind of emotional high did that win give you guys?
Jack Clevenger: The win against Sparta gave us the confidence that we are never out of a game and that we should never give up.
MSF: When Sparta scored that 3rd touchdown and Roxbury was down 21-0, did you think you still had a chance to come back?
JC: I felt that we still had a chance to come back because of the way our defense was stopping their run game and we knew that we were conditioned enough to play four quarters.
MSF: How did the Gaels hold suck a powerful running attack to under 100 yards?
JC: Our defensive line, Yaw, Young, Infermo, and Roberts did a fantastic job of containing their running game.
MSF: What was going through your head when you were lining up to kick what would end up being the game winning field goal?
JC: I was having leg cramps the last five minutes of the game, so I just tried to focus on keeping my head down and picturing on the ball going through the uprights. I have been working with Pat Sempier who has helped me greatly on what to think about during pressure situations. It was a great snap from our center, Jake Babus, and a great hold from our QB Grant Dixon.
MSF: What kind of edge do you think having a championship winning coach like Cosmo Larusso as your leader?
JC: Lorusso has experience in motivating his teams and always knows the right things to say to get us fired up.
MSF: Who is the strongest player on your team?
JC: Phil Infermo and Connor Young
MSF: Who is the fastest?
JC: Stephen Loreng, who uses his speed to make it look easy to get past his defenders.
MSF: Who is the hardest hitting player on your team?
JC: Craig Roumes who had an unbelievable game against Sparta with two touchdown catches from our quarterback Grant Dixon.
MSF: Who is the funniest?
JC: Tommy Miller
MSF: What was the funniest thing they ever said?
JC: Tommy is always making jokes and singing songs like “Sweet Caroline” to make us all laugh.
MSF: What NFL player do you think you emulate?
JC: Sebastian Janikowski because he is also a lefty kicker like me.
MSF: Who is your role model?
JC: My parents have always been my role models throughout my whole life.
MSF: What is your pregame meal?
JC: I always have a peanut butter jelly sandwich and a banana before games.
MSF: Let’s pretend is the State Final game, the game is tied and the Gaels are driving just past the 50 yard line. What distance are you going to tell Coach Larusso to try to give you to kick the game winning field goal?
JC: I have made a 50 yarder when working on my kicking but I would be most comfortable kicking from 40 yards and in.
MSF: Congrats on winning the POW and best of luck the rest of the way!