WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Stepinac was facing two critical junctures in the second half of the 41st annual Thanksgiving Day football game with White Plains.
Each time, the Crusaders had turned the ball over, but they would respond, leaving the Tigers behind. Stepinac erupted for four touchdowns in the second half and went on to a 38-14 victory over White Plains at Glenn D. Loucks Field.
Quarterback Daniel Hoffer completed four of five passes fo 119 yards and two touchdowns, including a 70-yarder to Vincent Narog, in the second half. Stepinacs defense proved to be opportunistic, registering six turnovers, capped by Ryan Wasylenkos 22-yard interception return for a touchdown.
This win was amazing, said Narog, a Mohegan Lake resident. Last week we played a tough game and it was a tough loss, but to have this one extra game, especially for the seniors, was great. After White Plains took a 14-10 lead one minute into the second half, Stepinac responded with 28 unanswered points.
Narog and his offensive teammates responded twice in the second half after Stepinac turnovers. On the third play of the second half, Ryan Brooks picked off a pass and returned it 60 yards for a score, giving White Plains a 14-10 lead. That would be the Tigers last advantage.
Stepinac went to work on the ensuing series. Facing a third-and-8 from its 30, threw an out to Narog, and the senior wide receiver did the rest. Narog broke a tackle at the 40, then two more, before sprinting down the sideline to complete the 70-yard touchdown and a 17-14 lead with 9:21 remaning in the third quarter.
Weve run that play all year, said Narog, who also had a 19-yard reception. When I saw I had some open field, I knew I had to take advantage of it and I was able to break a few tackles.
Stepinac fumbled on its next series, with Michael Scotman recovering at the Crusaders 26-yard line. Five plays later, Stepinacs defense came up with a pivotal play, forcing and recovering a fumble. Garfield Heslop pounced on the ball on the Stepinac 15. Had White Plains maintained possession, it would have been a first down.
Coming in we knew they had a good offensive line, so we wanted play aggressive and give it our all, said Heslop, a Yonkers resident. Before the game, we had a goal of how many turnovers we wanted to get. Five was our goal and we got it.
That was a big play because we hustled and stripped the ball. If not, things could have been different and anything could have happened from there.
Following Heslops recovery, Stepinac embarked on an eight-play, 85-yard march, finished off on a Lance Ladson 30-yard run with 1:25 in the quarter. Ladson catapulted himself through a gaping hole at the line of scrimmage and was untouched until the 2-yard line. During the drive, bruising fullback Caleb Gilligan-Evans (86 yards rushing) rumbled for runs of 17 and 14 yards.
White Plains was unable to crack Stepinacs defense, netting just 29 yards the remainder of the game. I thought out defense played a great game, Narog said. Everyone did a great job of flying to the ball and creating turnovers.
White Plains coach Skip Stevens went right to the stats sheet after the game, citing the fumble at the Stepinac 15 in the third quarter as a momentum-changing play.The six turnovers are the most weve had in my coaching career, Stevens said. They did a fine job of turning a negative for us into a positive for them. We were a little out of sync there and they drove it right down the field on us.
Stepinac 3 7 14 14 -- 38White Plains 0 7 7 0 -- 14
Stepinac -- Przemyslaw Popek 43 field goal.Stepinac -- Caleb Gilligan-Evans 1 run (Popek kick).White Plains -- Michael Scotman 1 run (Murillo Rosendo kick).White Plains -- Ryan Brooks 60 interception return (Rosendo kick).Stepinac -- Vincent Narog 70 pass from Daniel Hoffer (Popek kick).Stepinac -- Lance Ladson 30 run (Popek kick).Stepinac -- Austin Taps 25 pass from Hoffer (Popek kick).Stepinac -- Ryan Wasylenko 22 interception return (Popek kick).
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