When both of its Week 1 football opponents were forced to quarantine, Clarke and Locust Valley hooked up for a game that didn’t count in the Conference IV standings but allowed both teams to get on the field and dig into their playbooks for the first time in 16 months.
Clarke hosted and won, 22-6, behind two long touchdown runs from junior quarterback Nick Giardino, who was making his varsity debut.
Last Saturday, the Rams traveled to Locust Valley for the regularly scheduled matchup and mirrored their performance from the opener, winning by the same score, 22-6, on the strength of three rushing touchdowns (1, 5 and 10 yards) from senior bulldozer John Kern.
“Our kids just never quit,” Clarke head coach Tim O’Malley said. “We had our backs against the wall early but anytime that’s happened they seem to rise and find another gear.”
The Rams fumbled away the opening kickoff, which was recovered by Locust Valley senior Ben Ferrara, and put their defense in a difficult spot when the Falcons had first-and-goal from the Clarke 2 in the opening minutes. However, the Rams stopped Ferrara on four straight direct snaps to end the threat.
“We had plenty of opportunities starting with our first drive,” Locust Valley head coach Casey Neilly said. “We’re struggling with consistency and Clarke deserves credit for doing everything a little better than we did.”
The only score of the first half came with 6:24 remaining in the second quarter and was set up by the game’s longest play, a 37-yard pass from Giardino to junior Justin Rindner to the Locust Valley 1. Giardino, who had 95- and 28-yard touchdown runs against the Falcons on March 13, carried only once in the first half of the rematch. Kern made his first visit to the end zone on the day on the next snap, giving Clarke a 6-0 lead.
The Falcons responded with a strong drive that would end on a turnover inside the red zone in the closing seconds of the half. They punted from midfield on a fourth-and-13 on their opening possession of the second half and junior Christian Garcia pinned Clarke at its own 3.
The Rams (3-1) then embarked on a 97-yard scoring drive led by its front five of junior center Mike Delaney, seniors Anthony Rodriguez, Kevin Henning and Brendan Sullivan, and junior Liam Farrell. Kern busted a 36-yard run to create some breathing room and then O’Malley unleashed Giardino on a few runs to set up Kern’s 5-yard score. Giardino then hit Kern for the 2-point conversion and a 14-0 lead.
“Everything I did out there I owe to the offensive line,” said Kern, who made it 22-0 early in the fourth with a TD run and conversion run. “We had energy as soon as we got off the bus. Locust Valley is a tough team and we knew they’d be looking to avenge the loss.”
The Falcons (1-3) will look to get back in the win column this Saturday against East Rockaway. Clarke faces defending county champion Seaford.
“We just want to keep climbing the ladder,” O’Malley said. “We just want to get better every week.”