Dukes outlast Spackenkill to go 5-0
With its big rivalry game against Spackenkill on Friday night tied early in the fourth quarter, Marlboro needed a hero to emerge.
Enter senior running back Austin Beck, who returned a Spackenkill kickoff 92 yards to the end zone to give the Dukes a 21-14 lead with 8:39 left in the game and clinch a big victory over the dispirited Spartans, who had just evened it up 13 seconds earlier.
“I just saw everyone on the kick return doing their job,” Beck said. “They made a great hole and I just went with it. We just had a great job by everybody.” The touchdown was Beck’s third of the contest, and his big effort made all the difference in this rematch of last year’s Class B final, which Marlboro (5-0) also prevailed in. Asked if this night was a career highlight, Beck didn’t hesitate. “It definitely is,” he said. “Especially against a great team like Spackenkill. It was a great night, great feeling and I thought we just played a very good game.”
Spackenkill (4-1) took the early lead on Marlboro’s home turf, going up 7-0 with 8:29 remaining in the first quarter on a two-yard touchdown run from Nicholas Celestino, which was set up by a huge 55-yard scramble from Wayne Bowden (17 carries for 177 yards) on the Spartans’ first play from scrimmage. Marlboro bounced back in the second quarter, as junior quarterback Justin Votta (8 for 11, 102 yards passing) found Matt Marquis on a 39-yard reception to get into the red zone, leading to Beck’s first TD of the evening, a two-yard burst that tied the score at 7-7 with 5:34 left in the first half. “Just great blocking by our offensive line,” Beck said. “They’re all very good personal friends of mine. I trust them with my life and they did the right thing and made a hole.”
Marlboro charged out in the third quarter as Ralph Malone busted off a 41-yard run to get to the Spackenkill five-yard line, setting the scene for Beck’s second score, a four-yard run to make it 14-7 Dukes with 7:09 left in the third. But the proud Spartans weren’t done yet, as a 40-yard rush from Bowden got them deep into Marlboro territory and Celestino (10 carries for 22 yards) again plowed his way into the end zone for a four-yard TD to tie it at 14-14 with 8:52 remaining in the game. Now it was Beck’s time to shine. Although Beck (who carried more of the load after Ryan Cary left the game early with an injury) only compiled 21 yards rushing on 11 carries, he managed to break through for the game-winning 92-yard kickoff return to seal the Spartans’ fate. “I think it was pretty big,” Marlboro Head Coach Rich Ward said. “Probably the play of the day. Austin did the running but you’ve gotta give credit to the other 10 guys who were out there. They set up the blocks, they did a good job by that and that was a total team effort.”
Spackenkill had one last chance on the Marlboro 11-yard line with 51 seconds to go, but a 4th and 6 snap was fumbled and the Dukes claimed victory once again over their rivals. “I think everybody we play is a rival,” said Ward. “But Spackenkill is a great football team, they’re tough, they’re well-coached and we may see them again.” Ward was clearly impressed by the big performance from Beck. “I thought he played a complete game,” Ward said. “He ran hard, he stepped in when Ryan Cary went off and made the most of his opportunity.”
Beck picked the perfect time and place to have a monster game and Marlboro re-asserted its dominance once again in Class B. “Obviously Spackenkill is a great team,” he said. “I believe they’re top 10 in the state and I just thought we played to the best of our ability and overcame adversity and played our hearts out.”
By Ted Remsnyder