Rabu, 22 Juli 2020

Looking Back: Sea’s titanic 2009 upset of Long Island football powerhouse St. Anthony’s - SILive.com

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It had never been done before, and it hasn’t been done since.

It’s been more than 10 years since a busload of St. Joseph-by-the-Sea Vikings trekked to South Huntington, L.I. and accomplished the unimaginable on the gridiron -- toppling the seemingly unbeatable St. Anthony’s Friars in the fall of 2009.

When Coach Greg Manos took over the reigns of the Sea football program in 2002, a AA program at the time, the varsity roster garnered just 22 players.

Under the tutelage of Manos, who guided his alma mater from 2002-2011, the once downtrodden regime rose to prominence in the AAA division -- culminating in the form of an epic road victory over the Friars in what was their homecoming game.

In fact, St. Anthony’s, the No. 1 CHSFL team in the state at the time, had gone more than two decades without losing on homecoming night -- dating back to the 1980s.

But, on Sept. 25, 2009, Manos and his roster of 50+ Vikings pillaged the homecoming party and emerged with a stunning 28-24 triumph.

SPT Sea

Sea coach Greg Manos gets fired up during a 2008 loss to St. Anthony's. He would get his revenge the following year.

DAVID V. GOLIATH

“When I took over [in 2002] we were ranked 19th out of 21 teams in the CHSFL,” remembers Manos, who currently serves as Dean of Men at the Huguenot school.

“But [Sea] was my dream job,” he added. “It was the only place I ever wanted to be a head coach at.”

On the other side of the field, St. Anthony’s had a storied track record as one of the CHSFL’s premiere programs and one of the most dominant teams in the state -- having defeated the Vikings in every meeting since their inaugural matchup in 2005.

The Vikings were long considered to be a thorn in the side of the heavily favored Friars -- losing numerous close matchups without ever getting over the hump to victory.

So when the Vikings took the field under the Friday night lights in Long Island on that fall evening, they were ready -- but so was St. Anthony’s.

“When you get a chance to play a team like that, you want to be on top of your game,” said Manos.

Nevertheless, the Friars, headed by do-it-all quarterback Tom Schreiber, who would go on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 Major League Lacrosse draft, jumped out to an early 14-0 lead just eight minutes into the game.

Schreiber scampered for 154 rushing yards and two TDs to go along with 91 yards through the air -- and, in the early going, it seemed he wouldn’t be stopped.

“You can’t match their speed, you have to eat clock and control the ball,” explained Manos.

He turned to his potent double wing backfield, which featured running backs Lyle McCombs and Andrew Armato, affectionately referred to as “thunder and lightning,” as well as QB and fellow rushing threat Joe Lane.

Armato, the between the tackles “power” back, paved the way for McCombs, the elusive speedster, to hit the edge and get to the outside -- while Lane orchestrated the show under center.

McCombs would do just that before the opening quarter came to a close -- scampering to the outside before reeling off a 53-yard rushing score to vault the Vikings into the second period trailing 14-7.

From there, it was a surge of Sea Vikings.

Sea reeled off four unanswered scores in total en route to the astonishing 28-24 victory.

The defense, which held St. Anthony’s to 90 total yards over the final three quarters, was led in the secondary by Nick Ametti and John Fazio, who helped the Vikings come up with key stops throughout the contest.

Lane took one in on the ground himself from 23 yards out in the second quarter, though the extra point attempt failed.

In the third, he hooked up with McCombs on an eight-yard score and the latter would punch in the ensuing two-point attempt -- 21-14 Vikings.

For good measure, Lane snuck in another score at the goal line in the fourth quarter -- St. Anthony’s rallied for 10 unanswered points, but never got the ball back after kicking a field goal with 3:30 to play in regulation.

McCombs (172 rush yards) and Armato (125) teamed for 297 rushing yards in the contest as they “ate up clock”, and Lane took a knee to cement the triumph.

Down goes Goliath.

“My goal was to beat the best, and on that night we did,” said Manos.

SPT Sea

Andrew Armato brought the "thunder" and was a force to be reckoned with during the 2009 season.

PLAY YOUR HEART OUT

Admittedly, the Vikings weren’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest team -- but they were the hardest working.

“We were a 12-month-a-year program. That game was won in December of the year before,” said Manos. “It wasn’t the most athletic group, but it was the smartest and most mature group I ever coached.

“We showed up ready to be the best St. Joseph-by-the-Sea team we could be,” he added. “We were going to outwork you everyday, and that’s what we did [in that game].”

Sea also had a roster full of guys who complemented one another, on and off the grid -- starting with the wing back tandem of McCombs and Armato.

While their “thunder and lightning” style of play worked well off one another, McCombs’ fiery rah-rah attitude coupled with Armato’s quiet steady leadership also paid dividends in the locker room.

“The greatest thing about them is that from the day they got there as freshmen, they were competitors,” said Manos, whose Vikings went 7-2 that year, but were ousted in the CHSFL AAA quarters, 40-29, by Iona Prep. “You knew they’d show up everyday in the weight room, at practice, and at the games.

“I can’t tell you how hard they practiced,” he added. “The culture was second to none.”

THUNDER AND LIGHTNING

On that Friday, game day, the football players left school early to board the bus to Long Island.

It was dead silent when Armato suddenly blurted out, in a Mark Messier-esque proclamation: “We’re going to win tonight.”

When the Friars jumped out to a 14-0 lead, those words echoed through McCombs’ head.

“For me, as a team captain, that game was like the Super Bowl,” said McCombs, who would go on to play for UConn and in the Indoor Football League.

“I wrote my goals down on a piece of paper before the season, and one of them was ‘beat St. Anthony’s,‘ “he added.

Despite the proclamation, it was still a tall order.

“We looked at [St. Anthony’s] as the standard,” said McCombs. “We accomplished a lot in my four years, but we had never beaten them...we wanted to leave a legacy as a team.

“We bought in to coach and the system and the culture,” he added. “We were never the most talented, but we had a system and we believed in it and everyone was on the same accord.”

McCombs had been awaiting for the bout all year, but for Armato it was nearly five years in the making.

When he was in middle school he had watched his brother, Chris, another bruising Sea back, fall to the Friars.

“I grew up idolizing Sea football...St. Anthony’s was the cream of the crop, but going out there we weren’t afraid,” said Armato. “We were high on ourselves, we had confidence...that whole day was surreal.

“We knew we were going to win that game,” he added.

Both backs credited the linemen in front of them for their combined success: Dom DeBiase, Mario Colangelo, Mark Villa, Mike Rodsky, Joe Cowan and John Giustino.

“We didn’t pass the ball, we pounded the ball,” said Armato. “We had such a tight-knit group, not the most athletic, but the hardest working...and it translated on the field.”

The two-back tandem worked to perfection on the fateful autumn eve.

“We were so different, but that’s what made us a complete unit,” said Armato. “I loved setting him up.”

SPT Sea

Lyle McCombs, who would go on to play at UConn and in the Indoor Football League, was one of the greatest playmakers in the school's history.

REFLECTION

The following week, the Vikings, not the Friars, claimed MaxPrep’s No. 1 ranking in the CHSFL AAA division for the first time in school history.

“Looking back 10 years later, I’d put that team up against any team in New York state in the last 30 years, and it had nothing to do with size or speed,” said Manos.

“Looking back at that group, those kids understood what it took to win,” he added.

To Armato, it’s still surreal.

“It was a dream...it felt like it was meant to happen,” said Armato. “All the hard work paid off...it’s still one of the best days of my life.

“We knew we weren’t the best, or the most athletic, but that was the Super Bowl for us,” he added. “It was the pinnacle of our sports careers...it was bigger than all of us.”

For McCombs, who played professionally, it felt like a championship victory.

“Thinking about that day still gives me chills, I was very emotional,” said McCombs, who was in tears after the game. “I genuinely felt like I won a championship.

“It was something I had thought about all summer, it was one of my goals on paper...and we did it,” he added.

“They played their hearts out,” concluded Manos.

The Link Lonk


July 22, 2020 at 07:30PM
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Looking Back: Sea’s titanic 2009 upset of Long Island football powerhouse St. Anthony’s - SILive.com

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