Perhaps it’s our fault. The media as a whole, that is.
We, too, at times can get swept up in highlighting touchdowns and spectacular plays while glossing over other significant elements in a game.
The Our Lady of Lourdes High School football team is competing in Friday’s state Class A championship not because of its stars, but because of the contributions of the collective.
Particularly on a campaign like this — a series of upsets in taut games with late victories — the players who toil, often quietly and beyond the spotlight, have been crucial.
Lourdes will face South Park of Buffalo at 3 p.m. in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, as it attempts to become the first Dutchess County team to win a state title since Dover did it in Class C in 1997, and the second overall.
A team featuring a few standouts and little else “is like a nice car without an engine or missing a wheel,” wide receiver Luke Timm said. “It won’t function properly.”
Here’s to the spark plugs!
Sure, it was quarterback Dean Rotger who scored the touchdown in overtime of the regional final — a 21-20 victory over Cornwall on Nov. 13 — but it was Curt Jorgensen who kicked the winning extra point.
And Lourdes likely would have lost that contest, had it not been for Nick Santacroce. He blocked Cornwall’s point-after kick after its overtime touchdown, keeping the Warriors deficit to six. And in the third quarter, he blocked what might have gone for the winning field goal.
“Even when we’re down or it’s not looking good,” the senior said, “we have a belief, a confidence, that we can fight back and make a play.”
Those special teams plays he made, Rotger said, “is the reason we’re here.” That’s in addition to Santacroce’s steady play at cornerback.
Rotger, this season, set the Section 1 career records for passing yards and touchdowns. The large chunk of those passes have gone to Timm, a 6-foot-5 receiver with game-breaking speed.
Sophomore running back Billy Riccardi burst onto the scene in the regular season and, after he was injured, sophomore Joe Scaglione has stepped in and excelled in the playoffs. Behind — rather, in front — of them, Steven DeBellis smiles proudly, knowing he shares in those achievements.
“When I see stuff like Dean breaking records or Joey scoring three touchdowns, I feel happy,” the left guard said. “I take pride in that because it means we’re doing our job on the line.”
DeBellis, a 5-foot-7 lineman, can be overlooked by some larger opponents… until he’s using his low center of gravity for leverage in the trenches or his quickness to pull on a toss play.
Nicknamed “Cheech,” teammates describe DeBellis as a fiery, emotional leader.
He, along with left tackle Liam Hilderbrand, center Kevin Doyle, right guard Joe Profanato and right tackle Anthony D’Urso have kept the pocket clean and consistently opened lanes for runners. The Warriors also have scored several goal-line touchdowns, its line overpowering defenses who suspected what was coming.
Tight end Chris Mulvey and wide receivers Corey Mullaly and Billy Wagner each caught touchdowns in the 47-27 state semifinal win over Amsterdam last Friday, Nov. 20. Timm has been a deep threat for whom opponents game plan. But the talents of the other receivers — along with their route combinations — have enabled him to get single-coverage downfield at times. And the Warriors have capitalized.
Everything works in unison, like a machine. And each piece, Timm said, “is as important as the other.” Even Wagner’s punt placement has been a factor, helping accrue what coach Brian Walsh calls “hidden yardage.”
Cameron Jones often sets the edge on the defensive line, and linebacker Kerry McKenzie is a speed rusher. Doyle and Sean McDowell are stout anchors in their base 4-4 alignment and the Warriors also have deployed exotic zones in which Mulvey drops from down lineman to roaming linebacker.
McKenzie’s strip sack against Amsterdam set up Lourdes’ go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter. In the regional final, Doyle forced and recovered a fumble with 1:34 left and Cornwall driving for the potential winning score.
“Plays like those make all the difference,” Walsh said. “These guys have risen to the occasion.”
Timm, at cornerback, and Mullaly at safety have been ballhawks. Wagner, Scaglione and Liam McGhee are playmakers at linebacker. McGhee is often relied on to create havoc as a blitzer, but his contributions go beyond that.
McGhee provides smarts, instincts, aggressiveness… and barf.
McGhee said he has vomited before each playoff game — a combination of “butterflies” and carb overload — and teammates insist it has brought good luck.
“Before this game,” the senior said, “I’ll be puking in the Carrier Dome.”
After all, every little bit counts.
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4
Lourdes vs. South Park
What: Class A state football final
When: Friday, 3 p.m.
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse
TV: Time Warner Cable SportsChannel
Live updates, more online
Follow Journal reporters Stephen Haynes and A.J. Martelli, @StephenHaynes4 and @AJM_PoJoSports on Twitter, throughout Friday for updates and news from Syracuse. Use #OLLStates on Twitter to join the conversation.
Visit http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com for complete coverage of Lourdes’ run through the playoffs, including videos, photo galleries and features on the team.