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Ground attack, defense lead MacArthur over Mepham

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Inches away from reaching the end zone for a second consecutive week, MacArthur senior lineman Andrew Calderon still managed to make a pivotal play to lead the Generals to the win column.

With his team holding a 12-point lead, Calderon made an acrobatic interception late in the second quarter and was a step away from a clear path to the end zone before he was tripped by Mepham senior quarterback Billy Kender inside the 20. The takeaway set up senior Ryan Isom’s 6-yard touchdown run as MacArthur cruised to a 33-14 Conference II home victory last Saturday.

“We practiced defending their screens a lot this week,” said Calderon, who recovered a blocked field-goal attempt and raced 79 yards for a touchdown in a 27-6 season-opening win at South Side. “When I saw him roll out, I was expecting the throw to come my way,” he added. “I almost fumbled after I caught it. I was thinking touchdown but the quarterback got me by the ankles.”

The interception was the second of three on the day for MacArthur’s defense, which held the Pirates (1-1) scoreless until the opening minute of the fourth quarter when Kender scrambled for a 5-yard touchdown. Juniors Matt Papach and Steve Weber also picked off passes, and junior Finn Duffy had a huge pass breakup in the end zone to foil a fourth-and-goal on the series before Calderon’s big play.

“They had a couple of chances to make it a one-possession game and our defense came through,” MacArthur head coach Bob Fehrenbach said. “Offensively, we popped some nice runs which was good to see. If you run it enough, you’re bound to crack a couple.”

Junior James Napoli had a 12-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter to open the scoring and busted a 38-yard score in the third quarter. Isom capped the opening drive of the second half with a 1-yard touchdown.

“We knew MacArthur was going to be a handful up front,” Mepham head coach Anthony Cracco said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit and they executed well. I’m confident we’re a good team. Hopefully we’ll see them again down the road.”

The Generals (2-0) are using a quarterback tandem of juniors Jack Butler and Ryan Muller. Butler had a 1-yard touchdown run to produce a 12-0 lead. Muller had passing and rushing scores in the victory over South Side. “They’re both great leaders and we’re rotating them,” Fehrenbach said. “We’re not calling one a starter and one a backup. They’re equals.”

Senior kicker Alyssa Accordino made history when she became the first female athlete in MacArthur history to appear in a varsity football game. She nailed 3 of 5 extra-point tries.

Next up for the Generals is a rematch of the 2019 county title game when they travel to face four-time defending champion Garden City this Saturday at 2 p.m.