WICCOPEE If there is a silver lining for the John Jay High School football team, it would be this: Perhaps losing to New Rochelle in bizarre fashion is a good omen.
For the second straight season, the Patriots fell to the Huguenots in a flash of late-game dramatics.
New Rochelle, facing a fourth-and-12 with time dwindling, scored on a long touchdown pass with 1:30 left to stun host John Jay, 18-16, on Friday night in the teams’ season opener.
Greg Powell found Rashon McNeil for a 51-yard touchdown to give New Rochelle its first lead of the game. On a fourth down, Powell threw to McNeil on a deep comeback route up the right sideline. The receiver made the contested catch, slipped a defender, cut back inside and motored to the end zone.
In the teams’ meeting last year, New Rochelle pulled out a 21-14 overtime victory that was somewhat marred by controversy. Then, it was the Patriots who rallied for a late score to tie it, but the Huguenots benefited from the ball mistakenly being placed on the 10-yard line to start overtime.
That was John Jay’s only regular-season loss and the Patriots went on to capture the Section 1 Class AA title, becoming the first team in Dutchess County to accomplish that feat.
Star quarterback Ryan Schumacher completed just 2 of 7 passes for 32 yards on Friday. His last attempt, a fourth-down “Hail Mary” heave from the Patriots’ 7 with 39 seconds left, was intercepted to essentially end the game.
Schumacher, who was in his first game with an all-new cast of receivers, ran for 76 yards on 14 carries and scored a 6-yard touchdown.
John Jay seemingly had control after Schumacher’s TD run pushed the lead to 16-6 with 10:40 remaining.
But New Rochelle answered immediately. Powell hit McNeil for a 21-yard touchdown only 1:27 later, pulling the Huguenots within 16-12. The point-after try was missed, which meant New Rochelle would need a touchdown to pull off the comeback.
John Jay went up 9-0 early, but New Rochelle struck quickly in the waning seconds of the first half and pulled within 9-6 when halfback Jared Baron burrowed up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown 20 seconds before intermission. Powell had hit Keelan Thomas for 36 yards on a go route, preceding the touchdown.
John Jay struggled to get defensive stops in the first half, and New Rochelle converted five third downs. But the Patriots defense made that moot with turnovers early on. CJ D’Andrea a was disruptive force on the defensive line, helping contain Baron.
New Rochelle had reached the red zone on an 11-play drive in the first quarter, but Danny Diedrich erased that with an interception. The Huguenots’ Powell overthrew his receiver a bit on a curl route and the ball deflected off the receiver’s fingertip and into Diedrich’s hands. The linebacker ran it back about 80 yards for what would have been a score, but the touchdown was called back for an illegal block. John Jay started at the 40 instead.
The Patriots cashed in on that possession when Sebastian Aviles’ 21-yard field goal put them on the board with 1:46 left in the first quarter.
That drive was powered – quite literally – by quarterback Ryan Schumacher. The senior ran for 32 yards on the drive, including a 19-yard burst up the left side during which he lowered his shoulder and ran over two defenders outside.
Diedrich put John Jay up 9-0 with 2:20 left in the second quarter, compensating for his missed touchdown opportunity earlier. The tailback reached the end zone on a sweep left from 3 yards.
Schumacher was the catalyst on that drive as well, passing for 32 yards and running for an additional 26 to move the Patriots inside the 5. He hit Sal Ferrara on a slant for 11 yards to move them from their 25, then later found Jaivon Reynolds on a short crossing pattern that the receiver took for 21 yards. Reynolds shook the defense and cut up the sideline before he was hauled down from behind via horse-collar tackle. That New Rochelle infraction moved John Jay to the 24.
New Rochelle had another drive stall at the 24 early in the second quarter on a fumble. Powell attempted a flanker screen but threw the pass behind the line of scrimmage and it went incomplete – thus, a fumble – and the Patriots recovered it.
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4