The bus ride from Long Island home was not the joy-filled road trip Riverdale was hoping for last weekend.
The Falcons, enjoying a football revival this year after several down seasons, made the trip out east to take on an undefeated Long Island Lutheran team the Falcons played just three weeks prior. In that first meeting, the Falcons ended up throwing the biggest scare of the season at the Crusaders, losing a narrow one-point decision.
So confidence was high for a victory. But although the Falcons again gave Lutheran all it could handle, the ride home was quiet once again as Riverdale saw its season come to an end in a 14-0 loss to the Crusaders in the semifinals of the Metropolitan Independent Football League.
“It was a tough game,” said first-year coach Phil Treglia, who guided the Falcons’ turnaround this season. “We lost to them 27-26 the first time we faced them but this was more a defensive battle. It was 0-0 at halftime and it was a close, back-and-forth type of game. A good defensive battle. But it just didn’t go our way.”
Long Island Lutheran broke the scoreless tie in the third when running back Jeremiah Colclough scored on a two-yard run. When the Crusaders tacked on the two-point conversion they owned an 8-0 lead.
The score remained that way into the fourth quarter before Colclough struck again, this time with a 19-yard scoring jaunt for a 14-0 lead after the two-point conversion failed.
“We had our chances offensively, but we just didn’t convert,” Treglia said. “We had some guys open on long passes, but we just didn’t connect. (Long Island Lutheran) is very good. They had a good defensive front and they were rushing us pretty hard, and that might have messed up our timing on the deep balls. We’d been making plays all year, but this time we didn’t make the plays we needed to make.”
The fact he had just played his final game for Riverdale had yet to sink in for senior quarterback Harry Landis. But what he did come to realize was that even in defeat, it was quite the memorable season for a Falcons’ program that had seen lean times in recent years.
“It was a big culture change from last year,” Landis said. “I didn’t really know what to expect going into the season. There was a brand new coaching staff, but we just bought into what they were teaching us, and it turned out we had a pretty good season.
“Honestly, this was the most fun I had playing football, and I think all the guys would say the same thing.”
The accomplishments the Falcons made this season under Treglia can’t be overshadowed by their playoff defeat. And the coach made sure his players realized all they had mastered this season.
“I told them to be proud of themselves because we’re proud of them and we appreciate their effort,” Treglia said. “There were a lot of positives to our season. We beat Hackley for the first time in eight years. We beat Poly Prep for the first time in 30 years. We beat all the Ivy League teams on our schedule, and we reached the semifinals in our league.”
This season put Riverdale back on the MIFL map, Landis said, and he was glad he and fellow seniors Jon Faber and Nate Braus were integral parts of the program’s turnaround.
“For us to go all the way to the semifinals was really something great, and I’m really excited for the future of Riverdale football,” Landis said. “I know the freshmen, sophomores and juniors are very excited to get work in during the offseason, and hopefully continue on with our success next season.”
The Falcons may have come up a victory shy of reaching the title game, but considering where they came from at the start of the season — well, not many saw this kind of year coming for Riverdale.
“We had one of the best seasons in Riverdale history in the last 20 years or so,” Treglia said. “We were in the semifinals of a very tough league, and no one would have thought that two months ago. We only have three seniors on the team, we had a whole new coaching staff. and we hadn’t met the boys until last summer. So they really improved as a team over the last two months.”