The 2-7 Fort Lee Bridgemen football team lost to undefeated River Dell (9-0) by just one point Friday night. The final score was 36-35. Below is a summary of the exciting game as seen through the eyes of Jr. Bridgemen head football coach Christopher DePalma:
In the aftermath that was Hurricane Sandy that crippled our area, important to parents of players and cheerleaders was a football game that took place Friday night at Lewis F. Cole Middle School.
This was senior night, a time for the parents of players and cheerleaders to walk their children onto the field for their last home game. But the night turned out bigger than this for a Fort Lee High School football team.
Our town is not known for football, but year after year, players train and work hard and play their best to fulfill their dreams and represent their school and town. This year was no exception. Facing a river dell team that has a program with 60-plus players and [was] undefeated at 8-0 [coming into the game] and headed to the state playoffs next week, our high school team had a tough, if not almost impossible task of beating this powerhouse program.
Our program has less than 15 upper classmen on varsity, with five freshman and sophomores starting. These boys never come off the field for a minute, playing offense, defense and special teams. The Bridgeman team’s record [entering the game was] but 2-6.
But someone forgot to tell them that they weren't good enough to compete.
After the seniors were announced, senior captain and quarterback Mario Jacovino led the choir in singing the National Anthem to start the game. He then ran to mid-field with fellow captains Nick Harilau and Massaru Yamaguchi for the coin toss.
This game was a true battle of David vs. Goliath. Both teams started off by trading touchdowns and continued doing so until the final minute of play.
In the end, Fort lee fell short when the Hawks narrowly converted a two-point conversion to take the lead for good with less than a minute to go in the game.
But the true story here is not the final score but the resiliency of a team that just wouldn't die or quit.
After getting hit with the storm that left most of the players in the dark, Fort Lee was only able to practice but once in the past two weeks and basically had nothing to play for but pride and the respect of their school.
And play they did, led by Jacovino, who had a game worthy of All-League recognition, his play was almost flawless.
Passing at a rate of 17 for 21 for over 220 yards and three touchdowns, Jacovino was unstoppable and would not be denied. If he wasn't torching the Hawks secondary with pinpoint passing to his favorite target, senior tight end Alex Levy (110 yards, 1 TD) or senior wide out Nick Gentile (2 TDs), he was running over, around and through Hawk defenders.
Jacovino, who is a Saint Joe's transfer, had come back to Fort Lee to play with his teammates who he has been playing with since he was six years old. When the night was all said and done the senior QB had thrown for more than 220 yards, passed for three TDs and rushed for more than 110 yards and a touchdown.
When asked about the game all Jacovino would say is, “We played a great team. We played our hardest, but a loss is a loss. I have the greatest teammates in the world, and we would do anything for each other. I'm proud of the way we played, and at least they knew they were in a fight. Our fans were also great tonight. It was nice having all that support. You just wanted it that much more.”