Mandala, IC Catholic Prep storm back in final minutes to beat Marist
After watching his pass get intercepted and returned 95-yards for the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter, Dennis Mandala received nothing but positive support from his teammates.
Then the senior quarterback and IC Catholic Prep went out and engineered an ending the Knights won't soon forget.
With Joey Gliatta finding the end zone twice in a four-minute span, ICCP stormed back to prevail 28-21 over Marist in a CCL/ESCC crossover matchup Friday in Elmhurst.
In improving to 5-0 with the win over the Class 8A powerhouse Redhawks -- one week after defeating Nazareth -- the defending 3A state champion Knights again showed they can compete with anyone while becoming playoff eligible.
"Our team is all dogs pretty much," said Mandala, who finished 18-of-30 through the air for 259 yards and three TDs to go along with 47 rushing yards. "I have to give credit to my linemen and everyone that believed in me. They saw me throw that interception and they were like, we are good. Then we go and score the next time. Everyone knew we could do it."
Gliatta's 42-yard touchdown reception from Mandala, in which he cut across nearly the entire field, tied the score at 21-apiece before the senior running back broke free for a 15-yard score with just over four minutes remaining.
"This shows we are for real and that we can play," Gliatta said, who totaled 57 rushing and 48 receiving yards. "Everyone questioned us, wanted to see what we could do in this (new) conference. Deep down, we knew we had this inside of us and we are showing that every week.
"We are a team that fights every year. And we have big-time players. I think we've come out and kind of shocked the world."
Mandala earlier tossed a 14-yard touchdown to Kaleb Ellis, who caught six balls for 71 yards, and an 18-yard strike to KJ Parker, who hauled in six catches for 114 yards.
"This was definitely one of the toughest games I've ever played in high school," Mandala said. "We knew going into the CCL, it was going to be tough; and it was going to be tough especially for a 3A school with not many guys. But there is unlimited heart on this team, in this program."
Foley Calcagno put the finishing touches on the victory with a sack on fourth down during the visitors' final possession.
"The resilience level of your kids kind of determines the success of the team," said ICCP coach Bill Krefft. "This is a pretty special group of kids and this is a pretty special football team. "I don't know how they (Marist) have that record, they are a really good football team. They are the best team with that record I've ever seen. All the credit to our kids to come in and compete against an 8A power like that."
Marist (1-4), which led 14-7 at half, had taken a 21-14 lead on the 95-yard pick-six from Michael Flynn. John McAuliffe added a pair of touchdowns, rushing for 179 yards on 25 attempts. Quarterback Owen Winters ran for 76 yards on 12 carries.
"With this level of competition where teams are evenly matched," said Marist coach Ron Dawczak, "a lot of these games come down to a play or two. And they made the plays when it mattered.
"We were able to move the ball on the ground. We are close but just making a few mistakes in major parts of the games. We still control our own destiny, it's just about our guys coming together and continuing to fight."