One word describes the battle that occurred between cross-town rivals Pope John and Sparta yesterday afternoon…EPIC! Over 5,000 fans sat on the edge of their seats as the score yin-yanged between a tie and a Sparta lead. In the end, Sparta delivered their home crowd a 34-28 victory in dramatic fashion.
After Pope John went three and out on the opening drive, the Spartans drew first blood with an Anthony Argula-to-Tyler Trzcinski 15-yard touchdown pass. Then, when the Spartans stopped the Lions again, Argula struck with another 84-yard touchdown pass to Trzcinski to give the Spartans a 14-0 lead. But Argula wasn’t finished. He found a wide-open Dean Gennat for a 34-yard touchdown strike to take a 21-0 Spartan lead and leave the Lions with a huge hole to climb out of.
But Pope John’s quarterback Sonny Abramson jump-started the offense by driving his Lions down the field. It looked like the Spartans would stop them again when Pope John scored on a fake punt pass from Brendon DeVera to wideout Drew Daniel for a 41-yard touchdown.
Pope John got the ball again and Abramson struck with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Patterson. It looked like Sparta would deliver once again when Pope John’s middle linebacker Andrew Nieves came up with a huge 4th and one stop. Heading into the half the score was 21-14 with Sparta in the lead.
Pope John started the second half on all cylinders. After stopping Sparta, Abramson delivered again on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Patterson. Just like that, a few minutes into the second half it was all tied up at 21-21.
Things didn’t stay that way for long. Argula drilled a pass into Teddy Fischer who broke tackles and sprinted for a huge 40-yard gain. Argula scrambled for a few more plays to keep the chains moving. Then he threw a screen to Francisco who broke several Lion tackles before jumping into the endzone to make it 28-21.
The next possession, Pope John drove nicely with some spirited play by Abramson and Daniel. Abramson tied it up again at 28-28 when he sailed a perfect pass to Michael Josephs for a 5-yard touchdown.
Sparta got the ball back and it looked like they would take the lead again when a wide-open Francisco bolted down the sideline. Argula planted his foot to deliver the pass when Pope John’s Nieves and Eliezer Guzman laid a bone-crushing hit which altered the trajectory of the ball into the hands of Pope John’s Austin Bailey for the interception.
With less than 6 minutes left in the game, Pope John’s Abrahamson, who finished 18 for 33, 237 yards and 3 TDs, threw another pin-point pass, this time to Austin Bailey for a 25-yard gain to put the Lions deep into Spartan territory.
But Sparta came up with a huge stop a few plays later when Dylan Bray and Jimmy Cartier iced the Lion’s 4th-and-1 sweep to Nick Esposito on the 5-yard line.
With time still left, the Spartan’s Argula went back to work for his last scoring series of the game. A screen pass to Alex Miliken—who took a bigger role with starter Lucas Faria nursing a tweeked hamstring—turned into a huge 50-yard gain to put the Spartans in excellent scoring position.
Argula, who scrambled for a total of 89-yards in the game, used his legs to get closer to the goal line, then scampered in for a 10-yard touchdown run to give the Spartans the 34-38 lead after a failed PAT.
But the game wasn’t over. With 3:15 on the clock Sonny Abramson and company geared up for their comeback. But much to the credit of the Spartan defense, Sparta forced Pope John to turn the ball over on downs. Pope John would get one last try with a few second left but it ended in an incomplete pass.
NOTES: Anthony Argula finished the game throwing 25 completions on 32 attempts for 348 yards, and four touchdowns. He threw to six different receivers: Tyler Trzcinski caught 4 passes for 111 yards and two TDs; Alex Miliken caught 4 passes for 103 yards; Dean Gennat caught 2 passes for 47 yards and 1 TD; Skyler Francisco caught 4 passes for 31 yards and a TD; Teddy Fischer caught 5 passes for 45 yards; and Louis Ferrara caught 1 pass for 4 yards.
Pope John 0 14 14 0 28
Sparta 14 7 7 6 34
1st: Sparta: Tyler Trzcinski 15 pass from Anthony Argula (Teddy Fischer kick)
1st: Sparta: Tyler Trzcinski 82 pass from Anthony Argula (Teddy Fischer kick)
2nd: Sparta: Dean Gennat 34 pass from Anthony Argula (Teddy Fischer kick)
2nd: Pope John: Drew Daniel 41 pass from Brendon DeVera (Mateo Zapata kick)
2nd: Pope John: Wayne Patterson 35 pass from Sonny Abramson (Mateo Zapata kick)
3rd: Pope John: Wayne Patterson 29 pass from Sonny Abramson (Mateo Zapata kick)
3rd: Sparta: Skyler Francisco 3 pass from Anthony Argula (Teddy Fischer kick)
3rd: Pope John: Michael Josephs 5 pass from Sonny Abramson (Mateo Zapata kick)
4th: Sparta: Anthony Argula 10 run (kick failed)