By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
An exciting season of flag football at the Palisades Recreation Center culminated in two thrilling championship games last Thursday night on the Field of Dreams.
The Packers and Cowboys kicked off the doubleheader in the Bantam Division (ages 7-8) final and the Packers carried a two-touchdown lead into the fourth quarter before holding off a furious Cowboys comeback to win 14-6.
Quarterback Finnegan Viles opened the scoring with a nifty 15-yard run, then tossed to JoJo Rhodes for the two-point conversion and the Packers led 8-0 in the first quarter.
On the first play of the second half the Packers widened their lead on Kayden Rice’s electrifying 30-yard touchdown run around left end, but the two-point try was unsuccessful.
Gabriel Goldstein sparked the Cowboys’ late rally with an interception and on the first play of the ensuing drive Tommy Geraty ran 40 yards on a quarterback option. The two-point try failed but the Cowboys were within eight points and had the momentum.
After holding on fourth-and-goal at their 5-yard line, the Cowboys got the ball back and Dylan Goldstein weaved his way to the Packers’ 15, then Geraty scrambled inside the 5 with 33 seconds left. The Packers’ blitz prevented positive yardage on the next two plays and the clock ran out.
It was a team effort for the Packers, who were led up front by linemen Charlie Iwanyk, Tate Gilman, Tyler Bunn and Jude Polaha. Receivers TJ Todd, Malek Shamonki and Graham Dobble all made big plays to keep the chains moving.
The Cowboys got contributions from Finn Fuchs, Gabe McCoy, Oliver Wildhem, Sean Gilhooly, Ryan Freeman, Liam Kamdar and Chase Harding.
Shortly after, the Dolphins and Saints took the field to decide the Minor Division (ages 9-10) title. The teams split two regular season contests, but this time the Dolphins relied on the quick feet and rocket arm of quarterback Jack Thomas to build a 14-0 halftime lead. Thomas ran for the Dolphins’ first two scores and threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Gavin Knyal to make it 20-0 in the third quarter.
The Saints scored on a 60-yard pass from Dylan Iwanyk to Gage Santos in the fourth quarter, but Thomas sealed the win with his second interception with 1:48 left. Linebacker Michael Davidi also picked off a pass as the Dolphins got reliable kicking from multi-purpose back Asher Collar, solid blocking from Knyal, Max Meier and JJ Ward as well as steady running and linebacking from Sawyer Armbrust, Leo Silverman and Finn Bergeron.
Adding to the Saints’ effort were Curran Pendergraft, Jason Toomire, Luke Connon, Dash Dreher, Liam Nassour, Jackson Hubbard, Sebastian Derosa and Benji Kahn.
The Major Division (ages 11-12) final one night earlier pitted the Rams against the Raiders, who staged three courageous goal line stands to eke out a 20-16 win.
Kenny Russo rushed for two scores, including a game-winning 90-yarder in the second half, and threw a touchdown pass to Isayah Garcia. The defensive efforts of Tripp Netter, James Widhelm and Matthew O’Connor kept the Rams in check. Also contributing for the Raiders were Ian Sullivan, Sutton Culp, AJ Galindo-Fisher and Thomas Knyal.
Pierce Bergstein ran for one touchdown and caught a scoring pass from quarterback Quincy Watson and Bergstein and Gibson Pauley scored two-point conversions for the Rams, who trailed 14-8 at halftime.
The contest was as close as the teams’ regular season meeting in October won by the Rams 6-0 on a game-saving interception by Jameson Hancock. Also contributing for the Rams were Tiger Knowels, Rastin Mohammadi, Teddy Grandy and Dylan Arana.
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