With the bleachers packed as a part of Mepham High School's homecoming celebration, the Pirates (1-1-0) rose to the challenge and defeated visiting Kennedy (0-2-0) 27-7 Saturday.
The early portion of the game was a defensive struggle, with both offenses having trouble mustering any kind of attack. With just more than six minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Mepham defense forced a big fumble, which was recovered by senior Justin Derosena.
"We just kept going at them," Derosena said. "I saw the ball pop loose, and I knew I had to have it."
Mepham capitalized on the turnover with a Dane Ippollito 27-yard field goal to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead. That was the score heading into the half.
The Pirates came out in the second half and unleashed their passing game, which the Cougars had trouble defending. Tyler Davis hit Yianni Hilas with a 35-yard pass to give Mepham a 10-0 lead, and then Kennedy drove down the field. Fortunately for Mepham, the defense would force another fumble, and Chris Durkin fell on it to give possession back to the Pirates.
"We were on the same page the whole time," Davis said. "It started off a little slow at first, but then we came back."
The Pirates went up 17-0 when Davis hit Hilas for the second time of the game. This time, Kennedy wasted no time responding. Christopher Racalbuto hit a slanting Ralph Faiella for an 80-yard touchdown that silenced the Mepham crowd momentarily.
"It's a tough thing for us right now," Kennedy Coach Nick Martone said. We have a bunch of kids playing both ways. They're giving their all. We had a slow start last year as well, but things will get better for us."
Mepham put it away soon thereafter as Shane Agostino rushed for a score from two yards away. Ippolito added a 37-yard field goal later to put the game on ice.
"It was a good defensive effort," Mepham Coach Anthony Cracco said. "[Kennedy] has a couple real good players that you have to worry about because they could make big plays, but our defense stepped up."
When asked about beating Kennedy in Mepham's homecoming game, Hilas admitted that it gave him a little extra enjoyment.
"It's definitely sweet," he said. "It's always nice to beat those guys."
Mepham will face a tough task as they visit Wantagh High School Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Kennedy will look for its first win Friday when it visits MacArthur at 7 p.m.
What did you think of the game on Saturday? Tell us in the comments below.