Brief Lead Disappears as Fox Lane Falls to the Indians

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Saturday afternoon’s annual Homecoming game could not have started any better for the Fox Lane football team. Chris Johnson gathered in the opening kickoff, found a seam up the middle and outraced everyone to the end zone for an electrifying 85-yard touchdown, sending the huge Fox student section into a frenzy.

Fox Lane’s Chris Manjuck tries to break a tackle in the loss to John Jay. Photo by Andy Jacobs

“Yeah, we came out fired up,” Fox coach Steve Quinn would say later on. “These guys knew the importance of the game and it was a great way to start the game, for sure.”

But by halftime, the Foxes found themselves trailing local rival John Jay by eight points and then a pair of costly turnovers in the third quarter undermined their chances for a come-from-behind victory.  The visiting Indians, led by their dynamic duo of Jack Lambert and Tyler Keech, prevailed 44-28 on a spectacular fall day in the regular-season finale for both teams.

“We had to play a perfect game if we were gonna beat them,” said Quinn, whose team fell to 3-4 thanks, in part, to two miscues shortly after halftime that led to 10 John Jay points. “We knew this is an outstanding football team that we played, so we prepared really hard all week.”

Even with all their preparation, the Foxes really had no answer for the Indians’ Lambert, who ran for three touchdowns in the opening half and then was on the receiving end of a 15-yard scoring pass midway through the third quarter that enabled John Jay to open up an 18-point cushion as the late afternoon shadows lengthened at  Memorial Stadium. By the time the fourth period began, Fox Lane was facing a 37-12 deficit and Quinn, for one, had seen more than enough of the Indians’ two big weapons.

“They’re a good team,” he said. “I mean, number one (Lambert) and number 10 (Keech) are probably the two best players we’ve seen all season. So I think that just sometimes they get the better of you.”

Still, there’s no telling how the outcome might have been altered had the Foxes been able to build on their early lead when they had an opportunity back in the first quarter. After forcing the Indians to punt the ball away on their first possession of the game, Fox Lane took over at its own 34-yard line and began moving the chains. But the Foxes’ drive stalled after 10 plays down at the  John Jay 10 with just under five minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

The Indians soon gambled on fourth and one from their own 19, and Lambert made it pay off by running eight yards for a first down, setting the stage for an eventual 39-yard run by Keech to the Fox 3-yard line. One play later, Lambert found the end zone for his first touchdown and the extra point gave John Jay a lead it never relinquished.

The teams traded punts before Lambert provided his second touchdown, an eight-yard run, four minutes into the second quarter to conclude a five-play, 42-yard John Jay drive. Just two minutes later, Lambert caught a screen pass and ran 75 yards to the end zone, but his apparent TD was nullified by a penalty.

One play later, the Foxes’ Lucas Beni picked off a pass and returned it to the John Jay 1-yard line. Johnson was stopped on first down, but Chris Manjuck then scored from two yards out to get Fox Lane within 14-12. The Indians maintained their lead when they stopped Manjuck short of the goal line on the two-point attempt.

A six-play, 60-yard John Jay drive that began with a 26-yard pass to Joe Kells stretched the Indians’ lead back to eight points late in the half, but the Foxes’ Quinn still figured his team was right where it needed to be as it left the field at halftime.

“We were down by eight, so we definitely felt like we had a chance to get back in the ballgame,” he said. “We were defending them. I think they had four punts in that first half, so we were pretty pleased with how that was going. Offensively, it was frustrating because we really weren’t moving the ball that much at all.”

The Foxes did force the Indians to punt again on their first possession of the third quarter, but Johnson was hit just as the ball arrived in his arms and lost the football. An option pass down the right sideline to Kells immediately gave John Jay a first down at the 1-yard line before the Fox defense rose to the challenge and forced the Indians to settle for a 25-yard field goal.

Quarterback Jake Cohen had his third-and-15 pass picked off on the Foxes’ next series. Three plays later, a wide open Lambert caught his 15-yard TD pass over the middle and the PAT stretched the John Jay lead to 30-12. The Indians broke the game wide open with a three-play, 45-yard drive that ended with Kells making a reception, breaking tackles and scoring from 26 yards out.

The fourth quarter began with the Foxes knocking on the door at the John Jay 2-yard line, but trailing by 25 points. Joe Nickerson scored on a two-yard run on the second play of the period and Manjuck ran for the two-point conversion. The Indians, though, answered with an eight-yard TD run by Brandon Lee with 4:20 left on the clock.

A nine-play, 61-yard drive by the Foxes that culminated with Cohen falling across the goal line for a five-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds remaining put an end to the day’s scoring and gave Fox Lane a small amount of consolation.

“It’s better than not scoring, obviously,” said Quinn of his team’s final drive. “We know that he (Indian coach Jimmy Clark) had put a lot of his backups in at that point, but the effort was there and I think that’s the important part. They wanted to score, not for cosmetic reasons, just to get the ball in the end zone. That’s what good football teams do.”

Next up for the Foxes is the postseason, which begins with a Saturday appearance at Eastchester. Though only pride will be at stake, Quinn believes it’s important for the Foxes to win both games left on their plate and send the seniors out on a high note.

“After last year, particularly, to go 5-4, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is,” he said. “It’s a big momentum swing. It gets the program in the right direction.”

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