Last-Second Touchdown by Nanuet Dooms the Bobcats

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By Andy Jacobs
Byram Hills running back Gavin Javorsky tries to elude Nanuet’s Brendan Bennett in the first half of the Section 1, Class B semifinal game this past weekend.

In an instant, the dream of a sectional championship turned into a nightmare for the Byram Hills football team on Saturday afternoon.

Quarterback Ryan Frondi lofted a 25-yard touchdown pass into the waiting arms of James Moran with just eight seconds left on the clock, lifting the host Nanuet Golden Knights to an improbable 14-10 victory in a Section 1, Class B semifinal game that brought a crushing end to the Bobcats’ season.

“Listen, Nanuet’s a very good team and I think we didn’t finish drives,” said disappointed Byram Hills head coach Simon Berk shortly after the unfortunate turn of events for his players. “If you let a good team like that stay close, anything can happen in high school sports. I thought their best players made a great play at the end of the game, and that’s how it goes.”

On a day when the Bobcats never trailed for the first 47 minutes of the contest, it was the Golden Knights who wound up making the biggest play of all. The Frondi-to-Moran pass capped off a season-saving, 13-play, 73-yard drive over the final three and a half minutes that erased the Bobcats’ three-point lead and vaulted Nanuet into next Saturday’s sectional final against Pleasantville.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating. It’s kind of similar to what happened to us the first time we played them,” said Berk, recalling the 19-14 home loss to the Golden Knights a month earlier. “Didn’t finish drives, some turnovers, some bad plays, bad calls by myself. I thought our defense played outstanding today, honestly. That last drive obviously hurts. But that’s a tough team. That’s a team that comes at you all day, and they didn’t let up once.”

The Bobcats, who finished with a 5-4 record, didn’t waste much time gaining an early advantage over a Nanuet team that won its first six games this season. They quickly forced the Golden Knights to punt on the game’s first possession, then promptly marched the ball 60 yards to get on the scoreboard first.

Junior running back Gavin Javorsky finished the drive with a 15-yard touchdown, running to his left, bursting past would-be tacklers and then twisting his way over the goal line. With the point-after kick from Luke Weiler, the Bobcats took a 7-0 lead just before the midway point of the first quarter.

The Bobcats’ Michael Rocco carries the football in the second quarter of Saturday afternoon’s Class B semifinal against host Nanuet.

Early in the second, Byram’s Michael Rocco bolted 45 yards on first down, all the way to the Nanuet 37. But the Bobcats’ drive ended at the 24-yard line when Javorsky was tackled short of a first down after catching a short pass from Jared Cohen. Late in the quarter, a 25-yard pass from Cohen to Javorsky put the ball at midfield. But a pair of penalties soon left the Bobcats facing a third-and-20 predicament, and big trouble was about to arrive.

Cohen’s pass under pressure floated in the air a bit too long and was picked off by the Knights’ Frondi, who returned the ball down to the Bobcat 16-yard line with 1:49 remaining in the half. Three plays later, Moran scored on a five-yard run. The PAT from Jack O’Sullivan tied the score with 51 seconds to go before halftime.

The teams remained tied at 7-7 after a scoreless third quarter, but the Bobcats squandered a big opportunity to retake the lead when a 10-play drive that had begun on their own 20 ended with a fumble all the way down at the Nanuet 3-yard line on the next-to-last play of the period.

Byram Hills got the ball back with 8:17 left on the clock and held onto it for the next four and a half minutes. When the drive that began at the Bobcat 32 faced fourth-and-9, Weiler was summoned to try a 28-yard field goal. His booming kick easily sailed through the uprights, giving the Bobcats a 10-7 edge with just 3:47 remaining.

“That’s a sophomore kicker,” said Berk in praise of the clutch kick by Weiler. “That was his first and only field goal attempt of the season. He works incredibly hard and we had faith in him when the moment came to do it, and he did.”

But Weiler’s field goal only set the stage for a miraculous late drive by the Golden Knights that wound up breaking the Bobcats’ hearts. Up until then, Nanuet hadn’t gained a single yard through the air. But Frondi kept his team’s hopes alive when he completed a fourth-and-6 pass to Tyler Conjura for a first down to the Bobcats’ 46 with just over two minutes to go.

Byram Hills quarterback Jared Cohen searches for an open receiver as he drops back to pass vs. the Nanuet Golden Knights.

Then with the clock ticking down toward 10 seconds and the desperate Knights staring at third-and-11 from the 24, Frondi rolled to his right and sent a pass high into the air that easily cleared a pair of Bobcat defenders and landed in the hands of Moran in the right side of the end zone, turning the Nanuet sideline into pandemonium and Byram’s into silence.

The Bobcats had one last chance with eight seconds remaining and the ball at their 20-yard line. But a razzle-dazzle play with two cross-field passes didn’t fool Nanuet and Jablonsky was tackled for no gain as time expired.
“Whew, it’s certainly up there,” said Berk, asked where this ranks among his most bitter losses. “With what’s on the line, how close these guys came, this one will sting for a long time. You know, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it.

Losing always hurts, but they have to be proud of the effort they put forth this season and I’m a very proud coach.”

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