By Tom Pedulla—
As Sleepy Hollow players gathered in the end zone to celebrate their 31-13 victory against Briarcliff Saturday night, sophomore Aaron Aarpi made a statement with his crutch. Taking care not to put any pressure on his injured right foot, he held his crutch aloft in triumph.
As battered as the Horsemen may be, their spirits are not broken.
With Evan Bowen rushing 30 times for a whopping 287 yards and four touchdowns, Sleepy Hollow emphatically snapped a four-game losing streak before a large and loud Homecoming crowd on hand for Ring of Honor ceremonies as well.
Third-year coach Jerry Flora constantly searches for positive elements to present to his players and he quickly found one.
“This was an opportunity for our seniors to go out and have a winning record on Homecoming and be 2-1,” he noted. “There aren’t a lot of winning records around here, so this is something they can hang their hats on.”
The Horsemen improved to 2-4 overall, 1-2 in the league in a season that has certainly tested their mettle. They lost standout running back Brayden Richardson to a major knee injury in the second half of a victorious season opener in which he had run wild. Other injuries followed.
“This has been a tough season,” Flora acknowledged. “We lost Brayden the first game and we’ve had to move some guys around. I’ve been playing with a lot of young guys.”
The speedy Bowen, a senior who transferred into Sleepy Hollow, was expected to complement Richardson. When the talented sophomore went down, Bowen knew what he had to do. “I loved the challenge,” he said. “That’s something I live for.”
Give the offensive line credit for creating room for Bowen to roam. “We knew we had the size advantage already from the jump. We just went to work,” said Damon Fedor. “He’s shifty, so you’ve got to get off the ball fast and give him space to work with. You can see the result when we give him space. It’s open room to the crib.”
Defensively, Sleepy Hollow came up big when it had to. Briarcliff-Hamilton, trying to slice into a 19-7 deficit through three quarters, advanced to the 12-yard line of the Horsemen. Dylan Patsch alertly pounced on a fumble to snuff out that drive. Sean Sterino produced another key turnover with an interception for the Horsemen soon after that.
Special teams also played its part. Strong-legged Adrian Rodriguez gave Sleepy Hollow the lead for good when he boomed a 47-yard field goal that provided a 9-7 edge with 2:08 left in the opening quarter. He tacked on a 34-yard boot midway through the second quarter that created a 12-7 halftime margin.
“Huge win,” said senior Tyler Valenti. “It was a lot of fun to see the crowd stay hyped with us and show us a lot of support through this rough patch we had.”
Quarterback Justin Fink also noted the importance of unwavering support. “We needed some momentum,” he said. “It was the perfect moment at Homecoming with all of our fans. It was great.”
It was great, too, for those who were part of the second class inducted into the school’s Ring of Honor. Tony McFadden was prominent among them. He was a sophomore on the 1978 team that won the Class A title.
“Being a Headless Horseman was an unbelievable feeling,” he said, “but also the friendships I’ve developed over the years with these guys. I’ve known a lot of these guys for over 50 years. A lot of guys can’t say that. I’m fortunate and blessed.”
Joe Randazzo, an All-County performer as a senior in 2004, welcomed the Ring of Honor recognition while emphasizing the importance of team. He said of the camaraderie he enjoyed with his teammates, “There is nothing that can ever replace that. The older you get, that is the stuff you remember most.”
For McFadden, the football field was an extension of the classroom. “I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about life,” he said, comprehending the greatest impact of high school sports.Read or leave a comment on this story...