About everything that could go right was going right for the Fieldston football program last Saturday.
The Eagles were opening the season at home. Jake Horowitz — making his first start at quarterback — was turning in a stellar performance. Senior tight end Jake Diamond was playing like, well, a diamond. And best of all, the Eagles seemed to be in cruise control as they built a 13-point first-half lead over Dalton in front of the home crowd.
But just like that, all the good karma seemed to leave the Eagles sideline.
Suddenly there was Horowitz nursing a finger injury that sidelined him for the entire second half. With senior backup quarterback Stanley Ackerman already dealing with a separated shoulder, head coach Gus Ornstein was forced to turn to unproven sophomore Billy Hort to run the offense.
And the results were not what Ornstein and the Eagles hoped for.
Fieldston could get little traction on offense in the second half, and additional injuries to Diamond — who doubles as a linebacker — and safety Owen Schacht further weakened an already thin defense. All that meant the Eagles could not hold onto their early lead, dropping their opening day game to Dalton, 28-19.
“We were rolling,” Ornstein said. “We were up 6-0 and 19-6, and then injuries just crushed us. We’re so thin to begin with. It was going to be hard enough with all our guys playing. So to lose those guys, it became almost impossible.”
The Eagles jumped out of the starting gate in fine fashion as Horowitz tossed a seven-yard touchdown pass to Diamond. The lead swelled to 12-0 when Horowitz again went to the air, this time connecting with Josh Sacca on a 50-yard scoring strike, and it looked like it was going to be a memorable opening day for the Eagles.
A Dalton score shaved the Fieldston lead to 13-6, but it didn’t take Horowitz and the Eagles long to respond — and they did so with a 60-yard touchdown pass from Horowitz to Diamond for a cushy 19-6 advantage.
But then the bottom fell out on the Eagles’ feel-good afternoon. The first casualty? Horowitz.
“Jake had a great first half,” Ornstein said. “Then, right before the end of the half, he was rolling out, and on his follow through (after a pass) his hand must have hit a defender’s helmet, and he hurt his finger pretty badly. So we just couldn’t use him in the second half at all.”
Horowitz’s absence was also a blow to the Eagles defense as he also starts at linebacker on the other side of the ball.
The next to fall was Diamond, with a hamstring injury.”
“He’s our linebacker and tight end,” Ornstein said, “so that really hurt us when he went out.”
After halftime the injury bug extended to the defensive backfield.
“Then in the third quarter we lost our free safety and tailback when Owen Schacht got hurt,” Ornstein said. “It was something with his hip. It doesn’t look too serious, but he couldn’t play the rest of the game. Just a lot of unlucky stuff.”
And all the while Dalton chipped away at Fieldston’s lead and ultimately pulled ahead for good in the fourth quarter as the suddenly undermanned Eagles were powerless to stop the Tigers.
“We had a couple of guys who had never played in certain spots on defense playing in the second half, and the guys just got worn out,” Ornstein said.
The coach didn’t immediately know the status of his walking wounded for Saturday’s home game against Horace Mann. He joked he may be spending as much time conferring with the team’s medical staff this week as he will be watching game film in preparation for this weekend’s encounter with the Lions, the Eagles’ neighbors from down the block.
But he did admit that the injuries to Horowitz and Diamond were the most concerning of the three with Horowitz “definitely the worst.”
“But if Diamond’s hamstring is pulled or torn, that could be bad,” the coach said. “He was playing really good on defense and he had the two touchdown catches, and we were rolling in the first half.”
If Horowitz’s finger isn’t broken, he can at least play defense, Ornstein said.
“If he can’t throw the ball, we’ll use him as a running back or in the slot like we did with him last year,” the coach added. “But I have no idea. He plays all out at 100 mph. The guy is such a gamer, and if he’s out, it’s going to be tough to lose a kid like that.”