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Tough week for Eagles, Ornstein ... and Zoe

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Sometimes Gus Ornstein just needs to get away from the hustle and bustle of running his Fieldston football program. Especially after enduring a tough loss.

So how did Ornstein decompress from his Eagles’ 18-13 loss to Montclair Kimberley Academy last Saturday? How did he step away from the rigors of coaching, even for one day?

He spent Sunday afternoon watching his 10-year old daughter, Zoe, compete for her flag football team. OK, maybe he can’t totally step away from the game.

“I can take it easy and just watch her game,” Ornstein said. “I just sit and hang out and watch someone else call plays.”

But that little respite didn’t make Saturday’s back-and-forth affair with MKA any easier to stomach.

“It was a crazy game,” Ornstein said. “It was 0-0 at the half, and then they opened up the second half and switched a couple of things up, and they went right down the field and scored.”

A 1-yard touchdown run by MKA’s Naren Ranjani gave the Cougars a 6-0 lead early in the third quarter. Then, because of an injury to starting receiver Aidan Ginor — what would a Fieldston game be without losing another starter to injury? — Ornstein was forced to move Jake Horowitz from quarterback to receiver, inserting Stanley Ackerman under center. The move paid immediate dividends.

“I thought I needed another athlete at receiver,” Ornstein said. “Then Stanley hit Horowitz with a 75-yard touchdown pass and we were up 7-6.”

But the Eagles’ lead was short-lived as MKA answered early in the fourth quarter on a 24-yard touchdown run by Jack O’Connell for a 12-7 lead. On its next possession, Fieldston proceeded to march down the field for what looked to be a go-ahead score. But the Eagles’ drive stalled at the Cougar 15.

On their ensuing possession, MKA looked to be stopped at the Fieldston 15 when they were stuffed on fourth down. But the Eagles were flagged for defensive holding, and on the next play, O’Connell scored on a 1-yard run and MKA was up 18-7.

“That was a tough call,” Ornstein said. “We had them stopped, and then we give them a fresh set of downs. That was huge.”

Fieldston didn’t fold its tent, however. The Eagles methodically worked their way down field. And when Horowitz connected on a 15-yard touchdown toss to Jake Diamond to cap the drive, the Eagles were within 18-13.

But their last-gasp effort to pull out the comeback victory was squashed when MKA recovered Fielston’s onside kick and ran out the clock.

Ornstein knew he had a young team coming into the season, and that there would be some growing pains along the way. Saturday’s loss was one of those occasions.

“We’re 1-2, but I feel like we’re maybe just a couple of plays away from being 3-0,” Ornstein said. “I thought we missed a ton of opportunities. And I don’t know how many third-down conversions they converted on us. Plus we would have a silly penalty like a late hit which would extend their drive in a game where it was tough to come up with points.

“There also must have been three times in the game where they threw the ball down the field and our guy and their guy went up for it, and their guy came down with it all three times.”

Ornstein’s postgame speech centered on what could have been and how to clean things up going forward.

“We talked a lot about not finishing plays and missed opportunities, and understanding situational football and getting off the field on third-and-longs,” Ornstein said. “We need to take advantage of opportunities offensively. There were plays to be made, but whether we missed a read or missed a catch or missed a throw, we have to do better. We’re just so close.

“But it would have been a totally different game if we could have made a few more stops on those third-and-longs.”

Ornstein and his Eagles have little time to dwell on another close loss as they now turn their attention to facing an always dangerous Hackley program on Saturday for the Eagles’ homecoming weekend. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m.

And Ornstein hopes his youthful Eagles mature in a hurry for this weekend’s game.

“We’re doing some good things, but we’re just super-young and inexperienced,” Ornstein said. “They just have to learn to take advantage of opportunities.”

As for Zoe Ornstein’s game, well, it didn’t go any better than her dad’s as her flag football team lost by two.

“Rough weekend,” Ornstein said. “She did have a TD though.”

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