White Plains Beats the Patriots and Earns a League Title

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Nicolas Spista of White Plains tries to run past John Jay’s Brady Feliciotto during the Tigers’ 29-7 road win on Friday night.

A bit of déjà vu on Friday night paved the way to a league title for the White Plains football team.

For the second consecutive week, a Tiger opponent sliced a two-touchdown deficit in half with plenty of time remaining only to see White Plains respond to the challenge with a pair of game-clinching, fourth-quarter touchdowns.

A short TD run by Elijah Pierre with eight minutes remaining and then a long one by Isaiah Graham just over three minutes later provided the finishing touches for the Tigers, who earned a 29-7 victory under the lights over the host John Jay Patriots and captured the Class AA, League C championship.

“I’m so proud of ‘em,” said Tigers head coach Mike Lindberg amid the celebration by his giddy team after it had just finished with a 5-0 league record. “I mean, literally, we’ve faced adversity all year with injuries and stuff like that. And they just kept fighting. New kids stepped up. Every chance they had, a new kid stepped up and just did their job.”

Facing a Patriot team desperate for a win to keep its slim playoff hopes alive, White Plains broke a scoreless tie with two touchdowns in rapid succession in the second quarter and never looked back. When John Jay clawed back into the contest with a touchdown late in the third quarter, the Tigers answered just as they had a week earlier in a key win over Fox Lane — with two more touchdowns that shut the door on a comeback.

White Plains senior Danny LaSalle leaves John Jay lineman Arthur Miceli behind as he runs with the football in the second half of Friday’s game up in East Fishkill.

“These guys, they don’t really get scared of stuff like that,” said Lindberg about the second-half touchdown by Fox Lane last week and then John Jay this week. “They just play and they know we’ll be just fine. They know we can score very rapidly, so they’re not worried about that stuff.”

The Tigers fumbled the ball away at midfield on their first possession of the evening, then had a 63-yard touchdown pass from Jay Biondi to Pierre called back on their second, so the game remained scoreless after one quarter.

“I’m very proud of just how they were resilient,” Lindberg said. “We could’ve folded when we had the first touchdown called back. But we just kept motoring along.”

White Plains began its third drive of the game late in the first quarter deep in its own territory and proceeded to march 83 yards in nine plays. It began with back-to-back runs of 15 yards and then 16 by Nicolas Spista and finally ended two plays into the second quarter when Biondi rolled right and threw the ball into the end zone where Danny LaSalle hauled it in for a 10-yard touchdown. The point-after kick was blocked, so the Tigers’ lead remained 6-0.

The Patriots, who finished 3-2 in the league, quickly went three-and-out, enabling the White Plains offense to start a new drive from the John Jay 46. On first down, Pierre ran to his right, followed his blockers and got to the right sideline, where he found a path all the way to the end zone. Pierre then took a pitch from Biondi and ran in for the two-point conversion that increased the Tigers’ lead to 14-0.

John Jay soon managed to move the football down to the White Plains 20-yard line, but on fourth-and-five, quarterback Jake Vanderoef’s pass toward the right sideline was picked off by linebacker Jack Herman, who returned the ball to midfield.

“Our defense has been playing lights out,” said Lindberg. “The kids are flying around, they’re making tackles and we’re just playing tough, physical football.”

The Herman interception nearly led to more points for the Tigers, but the first half ended with Biondi’s third-down pass under pressure from the Jay 15 picked off in the end zone. The third quarter began with White Plains recovering its short kickoff at the Patriots’ 34. Unfortunately for the Tigers, a mistimed snap on first down led to a 13-yard loss and thwarted the scoring threat.

John Jay finally gave its fans something to cheer about on its first possession of the second half with a 13-play, 68-yard drive. A sure touchdown pass by Brady Felicotto on third-and-19 was dropped in the end zone, but a flag on the Tigers kept the drive alive and eventually Felicotto ran in from a yard out, bringing Jay to within 14-7.

White Plains sophomore Kevin Johnson and his Tiger teammates had reason to smile after they clinched the league title with Friday night’s win.

But that just set the stage for more fourth-quarter heroics from the Tigers for the second week in a row. They responded with an eight-play, 80-yard drive that was highlighted by a sensational double-cutback 21-yard run by Graham on the first play of the fourth quarter. Pierre finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run and then Mason Lang followed by reaching the end zone too on the two-point try. The Tigers’ lead was suddenly 22-7.

When the Tigers got the ball back again, it took them just four plays to go 90 yards, the last 65 coming from the speedy Graham, just back from injury, as he quickly got to the left sideline and then outraced everyone to the end zone. The PAT from Spista extended the lead to 22 points with just 4:45 remaining.

“As you see, offensively, we’re pretty dangerous when we have all our guys,” said Lindberg, who has had to make do without Graham and Pierre at various times this season.

With a successful regular season behind them, the Tigers’ attention shifts to the start of the Section One playoffs and next weekend’s quarterfinal playoff game they’ll host against Arlington.

“Well, we’ve got a home playoff game, but now you’ve got to respect your home,” said Lindberg. “You’ve got to take care of it. You’ve got to take care of business at home.”

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