Pendleton, NY – For two straight seasons the Class A North Starpoint Spartans underachieved in the playoffs, as anyone would attest too. On Friday they conquered their post-season demons by defeating the McKinley Macks 20-13. Led by junior running back Anthony Robinson’s two touchdowns, the Spartans were able to finish the season unbeaten at home and extend their record to 9-0 overall.
“We’ve been pretty disciplined all year, our defense played outstanding tonight, that’s a damn good football team we just beat” coach Al Cavagnaro said after the game. Cavagnaro is the winningest coach in school history. Now in his 31st season with the program. Cavagnaro was a JV coach back in 1986 and 1989, which were the last two times the Spartans reached the finals held at Ralph Wilson Stadium now known as New Era Field. “You never thought you’d get back so this is really great, I’m so proud of all our coaches and players and community here.”
Robinson had to carry a bulk of the load for Starpoint because senior captain Tajay Ahmed had been sick the prior two days. A Connolly Cup nominee, Ahmed was limited on carries but defensively, he was able to make plays, especially at the line of scrimmage. Ahmed finished with 12 tackles and a forced fumble while another tough senior linebacker Terry Rutland made 10.
The Spartans trailed 5-0 early on in this game as the Macks defense played equally as stout. McKinley’s Ezekiel Brinson recorded a safety in the 2nd quarter and on the ensuing drive Anthony Arguelles nailed a 33-yard field goal taking the crowd out of the game and giving first year head coach Brian Hillery’s team some life on the road in what was a pretty hostile environment.
“They are a very well coached football team, they play hard, tackle hard and run hard” coach Hillery said after the loss. “To me, it was an even game for a lot of it, we had more turnovers, but their defense was just very stout.”
Robinson’s first touchdown came just a minute after an Arguelles field goal. It was a 56-yard run that really brought the crowd out of their seats. Starpoint ramped up that momentum shortly after when junior DB Sam Mazzara picked off a short pass thrown by Drequan Pellam and returned it 62 yards for the score giving the Spartans a 13-5 lead going into the half.
The play seemed to have an effect on the Macks as several players had to be separated by coaches after the score. “Our juniors and sophomores hopefully learn that we can’t let the emotions get too high. Play as they’re coached and let their skills do the work” Hillery said.
Robinson ran in for his 2nd TD midway through the 3rd quarter extending Starpoint’s lead 20-5. He finished with 110 yards rushing on 15 carries. “After the win last week it gave us a lot of confidence going into this week. We knew they were good.” Robinson said. “The loss last year was devastating and we didn’t want to make that mistake again. The win against NT was the turning point for us. Down by 2 scores late and then came back was huge for our confidence. Next week is the biggest game of our life.”
McKinley didn’t quit though. Sophomore running back Kaiyer Fields added a 15 yard-td run late in the 3rd quarter to give the Macks some hope. Fields ran in for the two-point conversion as well cutting the deficit to 7 points. “We didn’t have a good week of practice, we know we could have won this game” Fields said afterwards, he finished with 88 yards on the ground.
Jeffrey Howard a senior for the Macks was a driving force on defense all game as well, left the field for the final time. “We had a rough start, made a lot of mistakes. Wish we could a done better.” Howard said. “We didn’t make the playoffs last year so we could have done better.” Howard has plans to enter college and would like to enlist in the Marines after high-school.
The Macks had a chance late in the 4th quarter but Mazzara picked off a deep ball to solidify the win for Starpoint.
The Spartans will face Bennett, winners of the Class A South division on Friday night at New Era Field with kick-off slated for 8pm. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door.
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