By Fred Stabbert III
MIDDLETOWN John S. Burke used three big plays two on offense and one defensively to beat the Sullivan West Bulldogs 24-7 on Friday afternoon.
The game, held at the luxurious Faller Field in Middletown, was a semifinal match-up in Class C between two arch-rivals.
It had all the markings of a playoff game as both teams showcased great defense and a high level of intensity.
“They are a very good football team,” Burke Head Coach Ed Van Curen said after the win. “There is no quit in them … it was a great game.”
The Big Plays
• The first big play of the game came on defense.
With 4:30 left in the first quarter Sullivan West was pinned back on their own 8 yard line following a 40-yard punt by Andrew Nutt.
Sullivan West QB EJ Franskevicz faked up the middle, cut to his right and while attempting to pitch the ball the pigskin hit the ground and Burke middle linebacker Mike Cappadora picked it up.
Two plays later Jake Morganstein ran it in from the three and Burke led 7-0.
• The second big play came on the first play of the second quarter when Burke running back Matt Press went off left tackle, appeared to be caught, then broke free for a 66-yard touchdown scamper, giving Burke a 14-0 advantage.
Press ended the game with 103 yards on 12 carries to earn the Most Valuable Offensive Player of the game.
Following Burke’s second TD, Sullivan West responded with a 72-yard scoring drive, which took just over six minutes.
A Tom Mootz 19-yard burst up the middle followed by a 28-yard run by Sawyer Erlwein brought the ball all the way down to the 25.
An EJ Franskevicz to Erlwein pass play then picked up 15 more and the Bulldogs were first and goal from just inside the 10.
After three knocks on the door, Franskevicz then ran it from the six-inch line to make the score 14-7.
• The third “Big Play” of the game came with 1:01 left in the third quarter. The Bulldogs drive had stalled near midfield and Franskevicz booted a long punt which fell just in front of Burke’s speed demon, Patrick Joyner.
Joyner took the punt on one hop, juked twice and bolted up the left sideline for a 76-yard touchdown punt return another long kickoff or punt return Sullivan West has allowed this season.
“We were trying to keep it a secret, but it was his third return of a punt for a TD this year,” Coach Curen said. “Coming in we knew we had to have a change in quarterback (due to an injury) and our offense answered the call. I’m really proud of them.”
The previous week, Burke starting QB John Kuhl was injured so Curen inserted wide receiver Tom Sullivan into the backfield as QB.
“Tom Sullivan really stepped up,” Curen said.
Sullivan West senior Tom Mootz, who had 66 yards on 18 carries and one catch for 14 yards, said, “We all tried our best.
“We had a new offense coming in which we were saving for this game,” Mootz said. “But we couldn’t quite get the (blocking) angles right.”
Franskevicz had 19 carries for 45 yards and one TD, was 2-9 passing for 30 yards with two interceptions. He also intercepted Sullivan once.
Sullivan West had nine first downs to only two for Burke.
Burke placekicker Andrew Nutt had a 32-yard field and two extra points and also missed a 37-yarder.
Most Valuable Defensive Player Cappadora made two fumble recoveries to go along with his 10 tackles.
Friday marked Burke’s third game at Faller Field this season, having played two home games on the turf during the regular season.
Rushing: Tom Mootz, 18 carries, 66 yards; EJ Franskevicz, 19-45
Passing: Franskevicz, 2-9, 30 yards, 2 interceptions
Receiving: Erlwein, 1-15; Mootz, 1-14
John S. Burke
Rushing: Matt Preis, 12-103