MARLBORO – Ah, the measuring stick.
It’s used to track progress. It’s the constant, and an object people use it to determine, well, how they measure up. With steady growth comes excitement and an eagerness to gauge.
But through it all, the measuring stick plays one role, with a simple duty: Continue to stand tall.
“We didn’t give any more hype to the game beyond it being the opening game,” Marlboro football coach Rich Ward said. “Some other people gave hype to the game, but we didn’t.”
Other people could mean the fans and, very likely, the media. For all beyond the walls of that Iron Dukes locker room, this game was hyped. As it should have been. It was the ballyhooed Friday night matchup — a season opener pitting the old standard against upstart Spackenkill High School.
And Marlboro, once again, stood tall. Sam Mongelli racked up 391 total yards and scored twice, leading the Iron Dukes in a 46-28 win over visiting Spackenkill.
Naturally, Marlboro downplayed the significance of the win. From the winners of five consecutive Section 9 Class B championships, we wouldn’t expect a September victory to be celebrated… outwardly.
But deep down, they know. There had to have been some satisfaction in making an early statement, beating the team that some thought, maybe, could nudge them off their perch. As gratifying for Marlboro, too, was the emergence of players who could become the program’s new stalwarts — Mongelli, John Perugino and Billy Williamson among them.
“Props to them, they’re a great team,” Perugino, a running back, said of the Spartans. “But we did what we had to do and came out with the win.”
That quote, and the game itself, roughly translate to: Close, but not quite.
The Iron Dukes beat Spackenkill, 42-12, last September. So this contest was indicative of the progress the Spartans have made. But it also served as a reminder that Marlboro has not fallen off.
The Spartans controlled much of the first half and showed the explosiveness that has made them a contender and made possible the thought of them challenging Marlboro. In fact, Spackenkill took a 28-27 lead into halftime. But that, obviously, changed in the second half.
“We’ve got some young guys out there and we blew coverage a couple times,” Ward said of Spackenkill’s big plays. “But they woke up real quick.”
Marlboro’s defense forced two turnovers en route to shutting out the Spartans in the second half, and its offensive line opened holes and created cut-back lanes for the runners.
Perugino ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns and had three receptions for 115 yards (including a 65-yard touchdown on a go route in the first quarter). Williamson rushed for 60 yards and powered in for three touchdowns.
Mongelli, a sophomore in his first start, completed 5 of 8 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 256 yards and a score on 28 carries. He also booted four extra points, succeeding his older brother Nick as the Dukes’ kicker and punter.
“Our team pulled through and our offensive line did great,” Mongelli said. “We adjusted to what the defense was doing and it worked.”
Williamson burrowed in from a yard out to give Marlboro a 33-28 lead with 8:11 left in the third quarter. Perugino’s 3-yard touchdown run with five seconds left in the second quarter had pulled them within 28-27.
The Spartans mounted a solid drive and reached the 10 late in the third quarter, but John Perugino, at cornerback, snagged an interception on a deflected pass with 4:08 left.
Spackenkill had another chance midway through the fourth, but star running back Dhyquem Lewinson was stopped on a fourth-and-2 run. Perugino’s spinning, twisting 9-yard touchdown run made it 40-28 with 4:33 remaining.
Camron Abalos tossed three touchdowns and ran for another, and Kabongo Barry and Joe Arcuri each caught touchdowns for Spackenkill. Barry’s 71-yard score gave the Spartans a 28-21 lead in the second quarter.
Lewinson, sans a few impressive runs, was contained. He did appear somewhat hobbled in the second half and his workload was reduced. The sophomore did catch a 66-yard touchdown in the first quarter to tie the score at 14, juking and outrunning the pursuit to turn a short swing pass into a big play.
“He’s a truck,” Perugino said of Lewinson. “I’ve never played against anybody like him. It was tough to stop him, but we did everything we could.”
Marlboro reacted more quickly to the outside runs and the defense flowed to the perimeter, cutting off the edge. Linebacker Zach Atkins had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery, and Vin Ferri recovered a fumble.
“My favorite moment was when the clock (expired),” Ward said wryly. “I don’t show a lot of emotion.”
Or buy into hype, apparently.
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4