The stakes were high last Saturday as the Fieldston Eagles faced off against the Riverdale Falcons in a game that would determine Riverdale’s King of the Hill.
It would be the Eagles flying majestically in the end, however, proving their royalty in defeating the Falcons 48-30.
Now with just two games remaining, both teams hold on to a modest 2-3 record.
“I think that we played the best game of the season for us so far, and any time we beat Riverdale it’s always special,” Eagles head coach Gus Ornstein said. “We love playing Riverdale, and we love beating Riverdale.”
They might not have met many of their pre-season expectations so far, but Ornstein feels his team may have finally hit its stride.
“We’ve been talking all year about execution, and I think that we finally executed,” he said. “We came into training camp thinking that we would be a pretty good team, but it’s taken a while to find our footing and our identity. We started to find it last week, and today I think that we finally put it all together.”
Jesse Cooper-Leary, the Eagles’ third-year quarterback, noticed his teammates puffed their chests more than normal on Saturday.
“Last week was a really big win for us. It really got us rolling, and was a big confidence booster,” he said. “This week in practice we really got after it, too, and I think it showed today.”
Cooper-Leary connected on two 60-yard deep-balls to Ben Rosen-Cappellazzo for touchdowns in the first half as the Eagles set the tone early.
“I think it was just diagnosing what was happening,” Cooper-Leary said. “We saw that they were playing man-to-man, and we felt that our guys were better than theirs. That was the philosophy that got us our first couple of scores.”
As far as Rosen-Cappellazzo is concerned, his quarterback deserves all of the credit.
“I love going up the press and I love being quick off of the line,” he said. “Jesse threw me great balls, though. They were tight spirals down the field. It was perfect.”
Ornstein was pleased with the tandem as a whole.
“We were finally hitting deep balls and Ben got going early,” the coach said. “They were putting pressure on us, and we figured out how to lock that up and we found ways to take advantage of our matchups.”
Rosen-Cappellazzo caught a pass from Riverdale’s quarterback as well, taking the interception 30-yards for his third score of the afternoon, giving the Eagles a commanding 42-6 lead. And with that margin, Cooper-Leary’s day ended, and Ornstein had a chance to test his future talent.
“We have a lot of kids who work really hard in practice and we don’t have a JV team, so they never get a chance to play,” the coach said. “Putting those kids in and giving them a chance to get reps is great. They got good game experience, and I thought they played tough.”
With a rather lopsided score and an injury to starting quarterback Conor O’Neil, Riverdale also had the opportunity to put their less experienced players on the field.
“We got a lot of young guys in and that was the most important part of this,” Falcons head coach Joe Otero said. “When you get into these kinds of situations, you have to let everyone play. It’s important to look at what we have on the roster. We got a little spark here and there, and we did a pretty good job.”
Riverdale quarterback Harry Landis showed poise and kept his team in the game, but their deficit was too daunting to overcome. He put points on the board with a pair of passing touchdowns and one on the ground. Landis wiped away a lot of what could’ve been a lopsided Fieldston win, but still, earning the King of the Hill crown was something he and his teammates would’ve coveted.
“Being King of the Hill means everything to us,” Landis said. “If we had won this game, we would have had the reputation of being the best team in Riverdale. That hurts because it’s one of our goals.”
Next week Riverdale takes on the 1-4 Morristown-Beard, while Fieldston will have its work cut out for it at 3-1 Hackley.
“We have a big one next week at Hackley,” Cooper-Leary said. “We’re really excited about that, that’s a big one for the playoffs.”
Like Cooper-Leary, Landis also is looking toward the postseason.
“We have two games left, and we have to win one of them if we want to make the playoffs,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking at now.”