Clarke and Malverne combined for more than 500 yards rushing and eight touchdowns through the first 47 minutes of their Conference IV gridiron battle last Saturday, but it was a goal-line stand by the Rams in the closing seconds that sealed their 30-26 home victory.
The Mules turned to young Charles Jenkins, Jr., who had pounded out 87 yards on 11 carries in the second half running mostly through the heart of the Clarke defense, on fourth down from the Rams 4-yard line. The sophomore, forced to the outside by the Clarke defense, was thrown out of bounds by junior cornerback Nestor Haddo to end the last-minute threat.
“That’s what we were trying to do throughout the game,” Rams coach John Boyle said of stringing out Jenkins Jr. “It just took us to that last play [to make it happen].”
Leading by 16 points at the half, a goal-line stand in the closing minute was probably the last thing on Clarke’s mind, but a spirited comeback led by the bruising Jenkins, Jr., and junior quarterback Jamal Aaron Hill (20 carries, 166 yards, two scores) included three touchdown drives of at least 60 yards. The final drive that began at the Malverne 37 was sparked by a 34-yard catch and run from sophomore Maxon Jean. “We felt like it was out game to win,” Mules coach Kito Lockwood said. “We had a few blown assignments and a few mental errors [in the first half] and got in a hole early.”
Clarke’s offense was led by senior running back Andrew Eannucci, who pinballed his way to 123 yards rushing and one score on 18 attempts. Junior Joe Truono added 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Truono, who was fed a solid workload with senior Justin DiFillippi out because of injury, gave the Rams a 30-20 lead with a 1-yard plunge midway through the fourth, capping a nine-play 80-yard drive in which he had five rushes for 36 yards.
Eannucci had a highlight reel run on the drive, breaking three tackles on the way to 24 hard-fought yards, while senior quarterback Jake Louw (120 yards passing) connected with senior receiver John Fogarty (three catches, 47 yards) on a 16-yard completion.
Truono’s first touchdown run was a 20-yarder in the second quarter that included a nifty juke of a Malverne defender at the 5. “He hasn’t had too much of an opportunity but he got the tough yards today,” Boyle said.
The Mules survived a rough first quarter, as the Rams scored on their opening drive, needing just seven plays to go 87 yards with Louw scoring on a 9-yard run. Malverne then had an 85-yard touchdown on the ensuing kickoff called back. Hill, who would leave the game twice in the third quarter after a pair of big hits, steadied the ship with a 40-yard touchdown to finish Malverne’s first drive. On the opening possession of the third quarter, Hill faked a handoff to Jenkins, Jr., bounced outside and ran 37 yards for his second touchdown. “He’s a warrior,” Lockwood said. “He wants it and doesn’t back down.”