Pictured (l. to r.): Mike Marsico, Will Tracy and Nick Clemente (Joe Larese / The Journal News)
Eastchester won the best game of the young season on Monday, beating Lakeland 44-42 in triple-overtime. Perhaps the only thing the Eagles may find as challenge as the physical and mental grind they endured that game will be trying to regroup in the wake of it.
Here’s more on their attempts to do just that:
EASTCHESTER — As Nick Clemente walked through the halls at Eastchester High School Tuesday, he was suddenly treated like a real football player. The fact that classmates and teachers noticed him was rare. He was, after all, a kicker — one who, 24 hours prior, had never even made a field goal.
“I was getting handshakes in the hallway everywhere,” said Clemente, a senior whose 32-yard field goal with 1:16 left the fourth quarter was one of the key plays in Eastchester’s wild 44-42 triple-overtime win at Lakeland. “People were acknowledging me and I’m not really used to that. Being a kicker is usually pretty low-key.”
Football has almost never been less low-key than this week at Eastchester, not after a marathon Monday that coach Fred DiCarlo called “a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
This week, the Eagles face one of football’s toughest challenges: Regrouping and refocusing for the next game after playing one they’ll never forget.
“It was an experience, but you know it’s probably not going to be like that ever again,” DiCarlo said. “So I said to them, ‘You just have to put that in your rearview mirror. You have it on tape so you can watch it again when you’re older or when the season’s over.’ For now, we just have to focus on Gorton.”
Saying that is usually simpler than practicing it — or practicing at all. Eastchester’s weekly day-after film session was as much about reliving the Lakeland win than learningfrom it. Already, 27 of them placed orders for a copy of the game on DVD — about twice as many as for a typical game, DiCarlo said.
On Wednesday, the Eagles had four players miss practice, including senior Will Tracy, who scored four touchdowns, two of them in overtime.
“Physically, I could feel it. I couldn’t move or anything like that,” said Tracy, a starting fullback and linebacker who also blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter that would’ve given Lakeland a 10-point lead. “Mentally — even during the game and especially when we got started in overtime — I would mess up on a block because I was emotionally and mentally drained.”
Coaches said the mental toll can be even more difficult to overcome than the leftover bumps and bruises. Eastchester had to endure enough during the game itself — turnovers, missed assignments, injuries and, most famously, Mike Marsico’s 95-yard return of Tracy’s blocked field goal that was called back due to an inadvertent whistle, and a power outage with 40 seconds remaining in regulation that halted the game for 15 minutes.
Now, the Eagles face the mental hurdle of resetting their focus for homecoming at 2:30 Saturday afternoon.
“It’s going to be hard,” said Marsico, who missed practice Wednesday for physical therapy on his ankle. “Any team we play on only three days of practice is going to be pretty tough, but we have to stick with it. We can’t focus on Lakeland. It was a great game, but that’s not going to define our season. That one win is not going to get us into the playoffs, so we have to keep focused on what we have Week 3 and that’s Gorton.”