NEW ROCHELLE, NY – Once running back Frank Ruta finished sharing some words of encouragement with St. Anthony’s quarterback Dante Torres moments after the season came to a difficult close on Saturday night, a sense of understanding permeated the air.
Though the visiting Friars were unable to complete the run to their first league championship game since 2017, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of eye-popping playmaking ability or late game perseverance.
After finishing off an inspired drive in the waning seconds of regulation, No. 4 St. Anthony’s fell just short against No. 1 Iona Prep in double-overtime, 35-28, in a NYCHSFL Class AAA semifinal.
“We’re that team,” said Torres, who completed 25 of 42 passes for 381 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. “We have the skill guys and our chemistry is good. We’re that team. We showed it, but I didn’t do what I needed to do in overtime.”
Kenyon Miles was flipped into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown on 4th and 14 in the first overtime to give St. Anthony’s (6-3) their first lead of the day at 28-21. Iona’s offense came right back with a 5-yard touchdown run from quarterback Ajani Sheppard to tie the score, and remained on the field for the first possession of the second extra period.
An 11-yard play-action run by Sheppard resulted in a go-ahead touchdown and a 35-28 advantage for the Gaels. St. Anthony’s was unable to extend the game, however, as Iona hauled in a difficult interception in the far right corner of the end zone to seal the dramatic victory.
It was the second time this season that St. Anthony’s and Iona went down to the wire, as the Gaels made a tackle at the 2-yard line on a deep completion to seal the first win on Oct. 23, 35-34.
“I’m just proud of my guys,” St. Anthony’s coach Joe Minucci said. “We fought, we played hard and crawled back into the game, and that’s a testament to the kids.
“Coaches did what we needed to do but the kids went out there and made the plays and got themselves back into the game. It shows a lot of heart…this is a group of guys that has matured so much over the past two years and I’m just proud of how they handled themselves.”
Trailing 21-7 entering the fourth quarter, St. Anthony’s climbed back behind a pair of touchdown passes from Torres, who scrambled from left to right to find Ruta for a game-tying 11-yard score with five seconds remaining to force overtime. The spectacular play capped off an 80-yard drive that began with 1:46 left.
“Dante is a great quarterback and Frank is a great football player,” Minucci said. “We’ve got a lot of good football players out here. They were able to make a play and get us into overtime and unfortunately Iona made the last play.”
The Gaels led 14-7 entering halftime before the game endured a 90-minute weather delay as lightning hit the area.
Following the hard-fought loss and encouraging words from Ruta, Torres declared a newfound confidence in his team ahead of his senior season.
“Now, for a fact, I know next year we’re going to win it all,” Torres said. “For a fact. I guarantee that we’re going to win it all next year. That’s what I know.”