Football – Thursday, November 9 – Regional Crossover game – Wayne Valley Indians 12 at Jefferson Falcons 32
You can go an entire season without seeing a single safety scored, but the Jefferson Falcons scored two in one half as their defense keyed a 32-12 win over the visiting Wayne Valley Indians in the 2017 Regional Crossover game last Thursday in Jefferson.
After a scoreless first quarter, the visiting Indians jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, marching 75 yards in 7 plays with Ryan Michaels throwing a 34 yard strike to James Pollock for the touchdown.
The Falcons responded going 56 yards in 4:23. Senior quarterback Anthny “Cheech” Johnson’s one yard sneak coupled with Drew Benfatti’s PAT gave JTHS a 7-6 lead at the half.
The Falcons started the second half by driving to the Wayne Valley 3 yard line but were stopped and turned the ball over on downs. With Valley facing a 4th and 9 from their own 4 yard line, the Falcons’ defense then padded their lead as Nick Miller blocked WV’s punt through the end zone for a safety and a 9-6 lead.
A miscue on the ensuing free kick gave the Indians the ball on the Jefferson 47. Nick Trani’s 8 yard run finished a 4 play drive and following their second missed extra point, Wayne Valley had a 12-9 lead.
The suddenly fired-up Falcons wasted no time responding. A personal foul against the Indians gave Jefferson the ball on the WVHS 37 yard line. Johnson and Benfatti hooked up in a 14 yard pass play to give the Falcons a first and 10 from the 22 and junior running back Joe Batelli then took the ball the remaining distance for a 16 12 lead. When Wayne Valley fumbled the kickoff, Jefferson had the ball on the Indians’ 23 yard line. Three play later, the iconic duo of Johnson & Benfatti connected again for a 25 yard touchdown pass and the Falcons had a 23-12 lead going into the final quarter.
The Falcon defense then put up their second safety of the half, no less the game, as on a 1st down and 28 from their own 7, Jefferson’s Matt D’Alessio sacked Michaels in the end zone to extend JTHS’ lead to 25-12. Joe Batelli then continued his electrifying evening, returning the free kick 53 yards to Wayne Valley’s 12. It was only fitting that two plays later Johnson and Benfatti would bring the curtain down on their stellar careers on a 13 yard touchdown to make the final score Jefferson 32 – Wayne Valley 12.
At the season’s last post-game at “the rock”, JTHS Head Coach Jerry Venturino fired up the crowd, by asking “How about them Falcons!!”. When the responding cheers abated, Venturino cited outgoing JTHS Athletic Director John DiColo’s last football game after a long and dedicated career saying “we’re so glad we could get to the rock for you one last time”.
As always Coach Venturino thanked everyone in attendance from parents, cheerleaders and the band to every last member of Falcon Nation. He mentioned how the team went on a slight skid but never gave up and the 5-5 final record propels the team into the off-season.
With tonight being a specal event, the coach gave out three game balls as opposed ot the usual two. The first one went to Shane O’Connor who Coach Venturino said “You’ve been in the trenches and you’ve been great”. The second and third game balls went to “the best tandem of QB and receiver I’ve been around in my 12 years of coaching” and of course you knew he was talking about Anthony “Cheech” Johnson and Drew Benfatti. The coach talked about their fabulous careers, about Johnson’s 1000 yards passing, and, addressing Benfatti “whenever we need a play we threw it up for you.”
Later on, I was able to speak to Coach Venturino about the win and how once again, the second half was “Falcon time”, particularly how following the Indians second touchdown gave them a 12-9 lead, the entire Falcon team picked up their intensity”. They really wanted it”, Coach Venturino began,”we had another strong showing in the second half with a lot of hard work and great adjustments”. As for the unheard of two safeties in the same, the coach talked about how the kids seized the opportunities when they presented themselves.
Of course, no discussion about the game or the season for that matter, would be complete without citing the combination of Johnson and Benfatti one final time. “AJ and Drew hooked up for two TD’s when we needed them tonight. We’re going to miss them next year.
Lastly the coach whetted the appetite of Falcon fans for next season. When asked about the contribution of Jefferson’s fine group of underclassmen coach Venturino talked about how players like Paul Monaco, Joe Batelli, Matt Cappello and Justin Randzio got much needed experience” and closed by stating he was”glad we could win for the seniors”
1 2 3 4 T
Wayne Valley Indians (1-9) 0 6 6 0 12
Jefferson Falcons (5-5/3-3) 0 7 16 9 32
WV Pollock (34) pass from Michaels PAT kick failed (WV 6 J)
J A. Johnson (1) run PAT Benfatti kick (J 7 WV 6)
J safety (Miller blocked punt through the WV end zone) (J 9 WV 6)
WV Trani (8) run PAT kick failed (WV 12 J 9)
J Batelli (22) run PAT Benfatti kick (J 16 WV 12)
J Benfatti (25) pass from A. Johnson PAT Benfatti kick (J 23 WV 12)
J Safety (Michaels tackled in end zone by D’Alessio) (J 25 WV 12)
J Benfatti (13) pass from A. johnson PAT Benfatti kick (J 32 WV 12)