It took a couple of tries, but Clarke secured its first-ever football victory on its new turf field behind a strong ground attack led by senior quarterback Nick Giardino.
The Rams defeated visiting Malverne, 30-6, under a blazing hot sun Saturday afternoon as Giardino had rushing and passing touchdowns as well as rushing and passing two-point conversions. He and junior Justin Somyak (one touchdown and two-point conversion) both rushed for 100 yards, while junior Jack Forte scored twice and made 12 defensive stops as Clarke improved to 2-1 in Conference IV.
The Mules, who orchestrated an 11-play scoring drive encompassing most of the third quarter to get on the board on senior DeAndre Blagrove’s touchdown run, slipped to 1-2.
“It was the hottest game I’ve ever played in,” said Somyak, who opened the scoring 5:26 into the game with a 16-yard touchdown run. “We’re well-conditioned and came ready to play, but it was tough out there. It feels good to get our second win in a row.”
First-year head coach Kevin O’Hagan lauded Clarke’s balance and its performance up front, led by seniors Tyler Benowitz, Liam Farrell and Michael Delaney with plenty of help from junior Joe Buffolino and sophomore Anthony Velez. “This was our best game so far,” O’Hagan said. “We played great on both sides of the line and on offense, our tight end Daniel McGrady, helped us set the edge with his blocking.”
The Rams scored on each of their three first-half possessions and also stopped Malverne inside the 10 on its opening drive. Giardino marched the offense 92 yards on its second possession, capped by his 16-yard touchdown run and two-point toss to Somyak for a 16-0 lead. Giardino kept the chains moving with completions to McGrady and Sean Welsh for first downs.
Giardino then directed a 69-yard scoring drive just before the half as Clarke took a 24-0 lead. Forte, who added a touchdown run in the fourth quarter, caught an 8-yard scoring strike. “Jack is a big-time fitness kid and wrestler who didn’t play football in the spring,” O’Hagan said of Forte. “He’s been raring to go.”
Trailing by three scores at the half, the Mules cashed in a must-score possession to begin the third quarter. With young quarterbacks Farvens Ulysse (junior) and Chad Wesley (sophomore) both getting reps, the visitors used 10:23 of clock on their lone scoring drive of the afternoon. Junior Norman Brown’s four touches totaling 30 yards and two catches by sophomore William Hartley set up Blagrove’s third touchdown of the season.
“We’re young and we’re going to learn every week,” Malverne head coach Kito Lockwood said. “We put together a nice long drive, but we’re usually a big-play offense and don’t take so much time off the clock. But, Clarke’s a really good team so give them credit.”