MILLTOWN – When Archmere’s football team needed 10 yards to get out of St. Mark’s with a win, the Auks turned to senior Mitch Moyer. The big senior didn’t disappoint, gaining eight yards on first down and powering his way into the end zone on second and goal from two yards out to lift the Auks to a 34-28 overtime win on Sept. 28.
That last touchdown capped an impressive comeback for the Auks, who put up the final 20 points of the game. They trailed St. Mark’s, 28-14, with 4:36 to go in the third quarter, but shut the Spartans down in a very entertaining game on a humid night at St. Mark’s.
Both teams feature strong rushing attacks, and that was evident all night. St. Mark’s took a 14-7 lead into halftime, with their touchdowns – a 45-yard Carter Benham run and a two-yard score from T.J. Butler – sandwiching Darren DiRenzo’s 20-yard burst for the Auks, ranked ninth in Division II by 302Sports.com.
The fireworks continued after the intermission. Archmere went to a wildcat offense on its first possession of the third, and Moyer took a direct snap 66 yards for a TD to forge a tie at 14 two minutes into the quarter. He credited the offensive line for giving him such a wide berth, and after shaking a defender, one thing was on his mind.
“All I could think was, if I get caught, I’m never going to hear the end of this,” Moyer said.
Their joy was short-lived, however. Benham broke off a long run to set the Spartans up at the Auks’ 14. Luke Moore ran it to the 1, and Devon Jones barreled into the end zone to restore the St. Mark’s lead with 8:07 to go.
A short punt gave seventh-ranked St. Mark’s great field position on its next possession. The Spartans used a long pass to get inside the 10, and Benham would dive in from two yards with 4:36 to go in the third to extend the lead to 14 points.
Another errant punt, this one into the offensive line, again put St. Mark’s into enviable field position, at the Auks’ 34. The Spartans, however, fumbled the ball away. Archmere’s offense stalled again, but the Spartans turned the ball over again, this time on an interception. A personal foul on St. Mark’s advanced the ball to the Spartans’ 17-yard line, where the Auks went to work with 50 seconds remaining in the third. They worked the ball to the 3, and quarterback Devin Houston rolled to his left and found DiRenzo for the touchdown. The score was 28-21 with 11:21 to go in regulation.
St. Mark’s started the next drive at its own 40, but the offense was stymied and forced to punt. The Auks broke through the line, however, and blocked the punt. Cole Bauer carried 21 yards to the Spartans’ 24-yard line, and Houston followed with a keeper for five more. A pass interference call set the Auks up inside the St. Mark’s 10, and DiRenzo closed out the drive with his third touchdown of the evening, this one from two yards. With 6:25 to go, the game was knotted at 28.
The Spartans had the ball, however, and started marching downfield. Quarterback Jelani Bryant hit Ryan DuPlessis for a first down on a third-and-nine. A few plays later, they faced a fourth down and eight at the Auks’ 26.
The field goal unit came on to the field, but after Archmere called a timeout to ice the kicker, St. Mark’s sent its offense back on to the field. Bryant picked up a first down with a 15-yard scramble. This time, the Spartans attempted a field goal with nine seconds to go, but a slick football contributed to a difficult snap. The kick sailed wide left, and the Auks’ fans screamed a sigh of relief.
The Spartans had the first chance to score in the extra session, getting four downs from the 10-yard line. Bryant ran for seven on first down, but the Auks recovered a fumble on second down, setting up Moyer’s game-winning burst.
Auks coach John Bellace said it was encouraging to see his team rebound after falling behind, especially against a team like St. Mark’s.
“(St. Mark’s) is a hell of a football team,” Bellace said. “We felt that we could measure up. I have the utmost respect for St. Mark’s, for coach (Joe) Wright and his staff. They’re playing unbelievable football. For us to go out and do what we did, it really meant a lot. It’s a good reward for our hard work all year.”
Bellace and Moyer said the Auks were motivated by the memories of former members of the Archmere community they have lost, including Anthony Penna, Mark Dombroski and Jerry Ambrogi, their late former coach. Moyer choked up talking about them after the game.
“We love Anthony. We miss him every day. He was an integral part of the community. We’re just there for those guys. An overtime football game is nothing for us,” he said.
Bellace said Ambrogi welcomed him into the Auks’ coaching fraternity many years ago and helped prepare him for the top job, and Penna and Dombroski remain an important part of the school.
“Anthony and Mark are deeply missed. To be able to do this for these guys, I know how important that is for all of us, to win a game like that and dedicate it to their memories,” he said.
Archmere won its third straight after a season-opening win. They are home against Caravel next Saturday at 2 p.m. St. Mark’s is also 3-1; the Spartans travel to Mount Pleasant next Saturday, also at 2.