Athena’s defense stops East’s comeback attempt in season-opener

Nick Marciano (#12) flexes his muscles after a game-clinching pass break-up

By TIM IRVING

Greece Athena senior Nick Marciano doesn’t say much, he doesn’t need to.

Trojan’s coach Mike Husdan showed his faith in him, “He’s solid, he works hard, he doesn’t say a word, just gets the job done.”

Husdan left Marciano in single coverage against East’s Todd Gillam and the senior broke up a potential game-tying touchdown to leave Athena with a 13-7 victory over the Eagles.

The game was the first under the lights at Greece Athena’s new turf field and the first football game played in March.

The first quarter and a half went by scoreless before East High senior quarterback Anthony Gilbert threw a jump ball to Justus Ross-Simmons, the 6-foot4 junior hauled it in from 17 yards out for a 7-0 lead.

The Trojans answered right back as freshman quarterback Jayden Rapp hit Matt Ranalletta with two long passes to set Athena up at the Eagles 12-yard line. Jayden Dorsey pounded the ball in from the one and the extra point left the game tied at halftime.

“Our starting quarterback (Josh Ranalletta) got hurt the third day of practice,” Husdan said of Rapp, who threw for 215 yards in the game, “we had a freshman quarterback leading us, I’m so proud of him.”

Athena’s defense, led in the middle by Dorsey, took advantage of an East offensive line that was still trying to figure some things out, with several snaps forcing Gilbert to ad lib.

Still tied 7-7 in the fourth, the Trojans converted a key fourth down when Rapp rolled out and threaded the needle to Ranalletta for a 22-yard gain.

Dorsey scored on a three-yard end run and Athena led 13-7 with just under six minutes left.

East got the ball back with two minutes to play and the Trojans’ defense stopped them on three downs. On fourth down with :56 seconds left, Gilbert fielded a wayward snap and found Ross-Simmons over the middle to move the chains.

Gilbert then scrambled to get the ball inside the 30 and completed a pass to Gillam to get the ball to the eight-yard line with two seconds left.

The Eagles tried to hit the fade to the right side for Ross-Simmons twice, both times Athena’s secondary took the pass interference call.

On the second untimed down with zeroes on the clock, Gilbert went the other way and Marciano broke up the pass.

“We were tired, they were driving on us at the end, I was just glad to be able to make the play for my team,” said the senior.

Husdan added, “It means everything to us, especially with COVID and us not being able to be together for a year and a half, it’s really special to us.”

The Trojans play at Greece Olympia next Friday, the Olympia/Odyssey team’s debut on their new lighted field while East is at Eastridge.

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