Bears vs. Crusaders: A Tough Loss

Brian Sommer, Staff Writer

The Hawthorne Bears faced off against the Elmwood Park Crusaders Saturday, October 20 and the Bears, despite a late Crusader turnover, came up empty handed and received their first league loss this season.

In a hard-fought battle between league opponents, a mishap on special teams, the size of the Crusader wide receivers, and the amount of penalties called, controlled the pace of the game.

The game began in Hawthorne’s favor when running back Dwayne Miele returned a punt inside Elmwood Park’s twenty yard line and set up a one-yard touchdown run for quarterback Tommy Walls. Hawthorne jumped out to a 7-0 start but Elmwood Park would not stay quiet.

Elmwood Park drove down the field as time was winding down in the second quarter, when quarterback Michael Dare for the Crusaders found receiver Brandon Velez, in the end zone. However, kicker Nick Smith missed the extra point, and to conclude the first half, the score was 7-6 Hawthorne.

As halftime ended, both teams came out fired up. Elmwood Park received the second half kickoff and picked up where they left off in the first. They continued to run a north to south offense against Hawthorne which lead up to a Christian Mendoza one-yard touchdown to take the lead. After the score, Elmwood Park succeeded in making a two-point conversion  to take a 14-7 lead.

Hawthorne then received the ball but did not do much with it and had a three and out. Hawthorne’s Ricky Grofsick was set to punt and received the snap and kicked the ball directly in to the wind–bad news for the Bears. The ball travelled about 20 yards but took a terrible bounce, looking a lot like Bill Buckner’s with the Red Sox a while back. The ball moved back to the line of scrimmage and not one player on Hawthorne keyed on Sean Violante of Elmwood Park who scooped and scored on a 16-yard return for a touchdown for the Crusaders (21-7).

Hawthorne with their backs against the wall came out firing on all cylinders and with the likes of Walls and Miele the Bears drove down, which set up a six-yard touchdown for Miele. At the end of the third quarter Elmwood Park was  up 21-14.

Throughout the fourth quarter neither the Bears nor the Crusaders could get anything going. Hawthorne had the ball with under five minutes to go, but could not get on the scoreboard. They turned the ball over with one minute and forty-five seconds left in the game.

After the turnover, the announcer hyped up the crowd by saying, “Elmwood Park has won the game.” The first play that the Crusaders had the ball, they ran up the middle with Mendoza who was hit in the backfield and the fumbled the ball. Ricky Grofsick recovered the ball with a minute and thirty-three seconds to go hoping to give the Bears another shot, and all fans in blue and white were going crazy. HHS senior, Philip Habib ,said, “This is one of the best games I have ever seen.”

Still fighting with all the courage the Bears had left, Walls took a shot deep to receiver Steven Sorrento who made what seemed to be an acrobatic one-handed catch over an Elmwood Park defender. However, the referee on the play called it incomplete, and the Hawthorne fans could not believe it.  Recalling that play later, Sorrento said shaking his head in disgust, “I could not believe what was happening.” After that play, Hawthorne had to continue to take shots to the end zone but eventually turned the ball over to the Crusaders who with 21 seconds left lined up in the victory formation and let the clock run out.

The Bears had too many penalties on offense which really hurt them; regardless, Hawthorne had many opportunities to win the game. This is not only heart-breaking to the Bears and their fans, but this was the first time since 2007 that the Bears had a big chance and could have won the league title, which would have been an amazing feat for Hawthorne and would set up well for the state playoffs.

Hawthorne plays against Glen Rock next week for the Homecoming game and would like to bounce back from this loss and play strong and continue to play at a high level.