Thursday, October 2, 2014

Santavicca Runs Wild In Supreme Husker/Quaker Dogfight

Coursing through Nicky Santavicca's veins is a steady supply of adrenaline.

On Thursday night at Horace Greeley High School, an overabundance of that adrenaline spiked through Yorktown's junior halfback.

Santavicca ducked, dodged, juked, and exploded into the open field.

He knifed through larger, dieseled-up bodies hell-bent on stopping him.

With Greeley's defense keying on him throughout a hard-edged and scoreless third quarter, Santavicca absorbed plenty of punishment and brutalizing swarm tackles.

Exactly what he wanted.

 The hits keep coming, the little bullish 5-foot-8 back vows to keep mashing and mowing. Bouncing around at a rate akin to a human pinball, Santavicca's focus never faltered.

"With me, what's most important is to keep your feet moving," said Santavicca, who rolled up a career-best 328 yards on 31 carries in a wild 32-21 victory over the Quakers.

"That's what I really go about doing. The more you keep your feet moving, the tougher it is for them to keep you down. Always keep the feet moving, that's it."

His feet moving, his desire to seal a marquee non-league victory burning, Santavicca raced 54 yards down the right sideline with under three minutes remaining. Exploding into the end zone unscathed, Santavicca's touchdown scamper was the final power punch of what played out similar to a 12-round, heavy weight fight.

"It's going to happen, I'm going to get hit good and I'm going to get hit hard," Santavicca said.

 "You've just got to keep your head up and trust your linemen. I never doubted them one bit. I knew they were going to come out on top. You've got to have trust with your team."

During aforementioned third quarter, Greeley's defensive line cranked up the pressure. The hits intensified. They extracted more motivation than frustration.

"When they key on me it just motivates me so much more, especially when they talk," said Santavicca.

"I love it. That's when I keep pounding them and pounding them, until the final whistle blows. That's my mentality."

Greeley's mentality was to spread Yorktown out with its crisp aerial game.

 Senior quarterback Cameron Ciero, a dual-sport stud and a Super 11 selection, was exceptional.

 The younger brother of former Greeley standout/MSG Varsity Section 1 Player of the Year Justin Ciero, Ciero threw for 224 yards (on a 22-for-31 clip) and two touchdowns. He hit the ground for 203 yards on 20 carries.

 Weeks after having a hand in every touchdown of a 35-16 win over Mount Vernon, Ciero gave an accurate account of his capabilities.

"He's just a great player," said Santavicca of Ciero.

"He can throw the ball, he can run. He was unbelievable. We knew it was going to be a dog fight."

Few envisioned Santavicca would thrive this much, this quickly.

His teammates did.

"It's really something out of this Section," said senior tight end/defensive end Dan Delbene.

 "He can be playing down with the big boys in Florida if he wanted to. He's on another level, he really is."

Greeley seized a 21-13 lead with 5:26 remaining in the second quarter. Ciero got loose for a 75-yard touchdown scamper, blurring down the right sideline.

Yorktown countered as Santavicca ripped off a 61-yard kickoff return, setting the table for a one-yard TD plunge from senior fullback Timmy Forbes.

Forbes' punch-in with 1:18 remaining gave Yorktown a 26-21 lead and a tidal wave of momentum heading into halftime.

While Ciero and Santavicca shredded up the carpet for much of the first half, the game flipped into a defensive battle in the second.

Ciero hit a wealth of receivers from the jump, stretching out the Huskers.

He opened with a 29-yard TD dart to Jonathon Kratz. He found Kratz in stride again, whizzing a 42-yard TD strike for a 14-7 lead with 11:52 remaining in a seesawed first half onslaught.

The Huskers knew they had a fight on its hands with Ciero, one of the Section's most transcendent dual threats.

 Mike Dedvukaj and Shivam Gupta paced the Huskers with seven tackles apiece.

The game's intriguing subplot was Yorktown's players v.s. Greeley head coach Tim Sullivan, a guidance counselor at Yorktown High School.

Sullivan explained that facing kids he loves and mentors would be tough, though both teams maintained Thursday was all about business.

Will this sheer war, which lasted three hours, make for a potentially awkward hallway encounter with Sullivan Friday?

"I'm really not sure," said Huskers quarterback Ryan Baker.

 "I don't think I'll have too many words for him, to be honest."