As they huddled in the south end zone following their season-opening contest with King High School of Connecticut, the Fieldston Eagles were the picture of dejection.
There was senior quarterback Jesse Cooper-Leary with his throwing arm in a sling while junior defensive end Will Hanson — injured on a special teams play in the second quarter — ambled slowly to join the group with the assistance of the team trainer.
Behind the Eagles, the scoreboard told the sad tale: Guests 30, Eagles 6, while head coach Gus Ornstein delivered a, well, spirited post-game speech. The gist of it being that a repeat of last Friday’s performance will not be tolerated.
“The biggest thing for me right now is we need to show that we care about it,” Ornstein said. “I feel like we have a chance to be good, but I don’t feel like they get it yet. I don’t feel like we know what it takes to win.
“I think we got some seniors who can really play and be really good leaders, so now it’s like, ‘You guys need to take some ownership. It can’t be coming from the coaches.’”
The Eagles found themselves in a quick 6-0 hole when the Vikings scored on their second possession with running back Matt Garavel scoring on a three-yard scamper. Fieldston had a chance to cut into the King lead two possessions later, but Alexander Thorpe’s 40-yard field goal attempt hit the crossbar.
That was just an indication of the type of day it would be for the Eagles.
King added to its lead early in the second quarter when Chris Della Jacono scored on a one-yard run to put his team up 12-0, and from there, the wheels seemed to come off for the Eagles. After a Fieldston turnover on its next possession, King responded with a five-play, 45-yard drive that was capped by a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chris Gaine to wideout Kenny Dyson Jr.
And just like that, the Eagles were in an 18-0 hole with 2:24 left in the first half.
But King was not done. After Fieldston’s Gabe Hostin intercepted Gaine at the Eagles’ one-yard line with just under a minute left, the Eagles chose to try and throw on first down. But Cooper-Leary’s pass was deflected into a King defender’s hands, who then fell into the end zone for a touchdown, and a 24-0 lead at the half.
That made three King scores in the final 5:45 of the half, and it proved to be a backbreaker for the Eagles.
“We were in the game and it kind of turned fast,” Ornstein said. “It’s 6-0 and we miss a field goal. But then those scores right before the half were killers, absolute killers. We tried to take a crazy shot down at our own one, and it didn’t pay off.”
The Eagles did finally manage to get on the board in the fourth quarter when backup quarterback Stanley Ackerman connected with Grant Miller on a 38-yard scoring toss with 7:58 to play. But that did little to curb the Eagles’ frustration levels after the game.
“I think this game was kind of indicative of our lack of intensity and that we just didn’t prepare enough,” Cooper-Leary said.
“In a way there could be a silver lining with this game in that it could motivate us to go out and get that next game, and get the game after that, and the game after that.”
That next game will be at Horace Mann on Saturday afternoon, and Cooper-Leary said he not only will be ready to go for that game, but hopes to use it as a springboard for the rest of the season.
“My trainer said it’s just a bone bruise, and I’m expecting to be back ready to go for Horace Mann,” Cooper-Leary said of his shoulder injury. “But I know a lot of stories where teams start off bad and then they take that to heart and they dig deep and they come out a stronger team, and that’s what I’m hoping we can do.”
Ornstein, fresh off his emotional/motivational post-game speech, said he hopes his team responds from its opening loss.
“This was a wakeup call,” Ornstein said. “This was a statement game to say, ‘Hey, this is how much more we need to put into this and how much more work we need to do to get to where we really want to get to.’
“I guess we’ll find out” Saturday.