Worth the Wait

Ry­an quar­ter­back Mark Os­taszewski (right) hands off to run­ning back Jeremi­ah Ag­rio in the Raid­ers’ 32-31 over­time win over Judge. Ag­rio’s 246 rush­ing yards paced Ry­an, which won with­in the Cath­ol­ic League for the first time since 2007. RICHARD K

— After five long years without a Cath­ol­ic League win, Arch­bish­op Ry­an foot­ball fi­nally broke through last Sat­urday.


In the grand scheme of things, the res­ult wasn’t really a big deal. Nobody won a cham­pi­on­ship, and no one clinched a play­off berth.

But in the short term? That’s a dif­fer­ent story.

   In one of the most ex­cit­ing Cath­ol­ic League reg­u­lar-sea­son tilts in re­cent memory, Arch­bish­op Ry­an stunned Fath­er Judge, 32-31, in over­time on Sat­urday even­ing at North­east High’s Charles Mar­tin Sta­di­um.

Raid­er fans en­joyed a col­lect­ive sigh of re­lief as they cel­eb­rated a vic­tory over a Cath­ol­ic League di­vi­sion op­pon­ent for the first time since 2007. Oth­er than beat­ing non-di­vi­sion foe Arch­bish­op Car­roll last year, the Raid­ers had been 0-34 against the Cath­ol­ic League dur­ing that stretch and 0-22 against di­vi­sion op­pon­ents.

Mak­ing mat­ters even more joy­ous was sever­ing the los­ing streak against their long­time neigh­bor­hood rival, whom they had not de­feated since a 26-21 de­cision in 2005.

“This is huge,” said Ry­an ju­ni­or quar­ter­back Mark Os­taszewski. “It feels so good. It’s been a long time com­ing.”

Al­though he and his team­mates wer­en’t even teen­agers five years ago, they have felt some of the bur­den that goes along with win­less ig­no­miny.

Some­times ruth­less with their com­ment­ary, al­beit usu­ally in the con­text of simply “kid­ding around,” Ry­an stu­dents have oc­ca­sion­ally com­mu­nic­ated their angst about los­ing to many of the play­ers.

“It hasn’t al­ways been easy,” said Os­taszewski, whose fath­er, also named Mark, was a mem­ber of Ry­an’s 1990 Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ship squad, the first of four con­sec­ut­ive Raid­er titles. “They can be like, ‘You guys stink.’ But this year, they were more like, ‘Will you guys be any bet­ter?’ Then we got killed by LaS­alle (31-0, end­ing a three-game, non-league win­ning streak), and they were like, ‘Nope, you still stink.’”

From the re­ac­tion of the Ry­an faith­ful who lit­er­ally climbed over the fence to join their vic­tori­ous peers on the field at the con­clu­sion of the con­test, all ap­pears to be for­giv­en.

“I feel great for these guys,” said fourth-year Ry­an Coach Frank McArdle, cited by sev­er­al play­ers as the per­son for whom they most wanted to win. “They work hard in prac­tice and they really battled. The way they won shows how far they’ve come.”

The back-and-forth, seesaw-type  at­mo­sphere came down to over­time, dur­ing which the ball is placed on the op­pon­ent’s 10-yard line. With the score tied at 24, Judge (2-4 over­all, 0-2 in league play) got the first crack and didn’t dis­ap­point, tak­ing a 31-24 lead on its second play, cour­tesy of a Den­nis Boice touch­down run.

Ry­an (4-3, 1-2) took over and pro­ceeded to lose yard­age on a rush at­tempt. Un­daun­ted, Os­taszewski took the next snap all the way to the goal line be­fore be­ing stopped. However, he bounced through on third down to make it 31-30.

When he turned to the side­line, McArdle and of­fens­ive co­ordin­at­or Chris Rahill were hold­ing up two fin­gers, mean­ing that Ry­an would either win or lose on the next snap.

“I was con­fid­ent we would get it,” McArdle said. “There was no reas­on to think we wouldn’t. We were play­ing great on of­fense all game long.”

With the ball placed on the two-yard line, Os­taszewski pitched back to seni­or run­ning back Jeremi­ah Ag­rio. While rolling to his left, Ag­rio, a Penns­bury trans­fer re­ceived an out­stand­ing block from ju­ni­or re­ceiv­er Bobby Ro­mano be­fore diving in­to the corner of the end zone as he slapped the ball against the pylon.

Good­bye los­ing streak. Hello, Cath­ol­ic League vic­tory.

“We won’t for­get this,” said Ag­rio, who fin­ished with a ca­reer-best 246 yards on 33 car­ries, two yards short of Mike Er­brick’s 1990 school re­cord. “There was no way we were go­ing to lose this game. That wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen.”

Ahead 17-7 at half­time, Ry­an play­ers were re­minded how they lost to Car­din­al O’Hara in last year’s sea­son open­er des­pite be­ing ahead after two quar­ters. Al­though the Raid­ers said they wer­en’t wor­ried about a re­peat, Judge ul­ti­mately was able to forge a 24-24 tie be­hind sopho­more run­ning back Samir Bul­lock (20 car­ries, 190 yards, one touch­down).

En­ter­ing over­time, a pall of con­cern washed over the Ry­an crowd. A mo­ment­ary, deaf­en­ing si­lence oc­curred after the Cru­saders took the over­time lead, but the of­fens­ive line grunt work of cen­ter Ed Bier, guards Bri­an Rob­bins and Nick Werez, and tackles Bill Dykan and Joe Hans­bury re­fused to be denied.

“Our line played great,” Ag­rio said. “They were open­ing holes all game long.”

As for the de­cision to go for the win rather than a tie, Os­taszewski said he was “thrilled” by the ag­gress­ive strategy. Hav­ing already scored twice on quar­ter­back sneaks while also toss­ing a 26-yard touch­down pass to sopho­more Travon Wil­li­ams, Os­taszewski (5-for-7, 89 yards, two touch­downs) felt that mo­mentum was on Ry­an’s side.

“I wanted to end it right there, too,” he said. “Judge was run­ning it pretty well and I think every­one was tired, so we didn’t want to give the ball back to them. It was time to take the game … that’s what we did.”

And fi­nally, after five long years, a Cath­ol­ic League win­ning streak had be­gun. ••End­Frag­ment 

It’s been a while …

Some facts and fig­ures in the wake of Ry­an’s first league win in nearly five years:

Last Cath­ol­ic League win:  11/4/07 (36-6 over Bon­ner)

Days elapsed:  1,804

Last win over Judge: 11/4/05 (26-21, Ry­an)

Days elapsed: 2,534

Points for:  209

Points against:  830

Over­all re­cord in 2007-11: 12-42 

Over­all re­cord in 2012: 4-3

Num­ber of La Salle/SJ Prep league wins dur­ing los­ing streak: 36

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

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