Three touchdowns by Matthew Sluka rushing and one passing to beat Hun, 35-32 and stay undefeated with one game left in their season.
First Quarter: The game was off to an unusual start, as Peddie had three 5-yard penalties to open the game before they ran their first play. After they punted, Hun needed five plays to score when Logan Clouse found Nick DeGennaro for a 45-yard touchdown. The key play setting things up was a 37-yard completion to Keegan Woods two plays earlier. Peddie answered by going 60 yards on ten plays, capping it off when Sluka scored from a yard out to move in front, 7-6. Peddie started in good field position on their next drive, courtesy of recovered fumble on Hun’s 44-yard line. Sluka kept it on all four plays, the last a 4-yard touchdown to make it 14-6 with 44 seconds left.
Second Quarter: Hun narrowed the gap when Ian Franzoni went 81 yards for a touchdown, the first of his three long scores. Peddie came right back and scored on a pass from Sluka to Mason Shipp of 49 yards. Hun’s next possession ended with a blocked punt that set Peddie up on Hun’s 33-yard line, but they turned it over on downs. Hun’s first play was all it needed when Clouse found Franzoni in the flat and went 64 yards for the touchdown. Clouse found a wide open Connor Deveney for a two-point conversion to make it 21-20 with 3:49 left. Peddie drove into Hun territory, reaching the 19 before Grant Hansen intercepted with 20 seconds left.
Third Quarter: Hun came out with the ball and went in front, 26-21 on an 11-yard Ahmad Dixon run past the right pylon. Peddie answered back when Sluka ran 9 yards for the touchdown. One play later, Franzoni went 80 yards to give the lead back to Hun, 32-28, with three minutes left.
Fourth Quarter: After starting a drive on their 8-yard line, Hun went for it on fourth-and-1 from their 17, but Franzoni was stopped for no gain, giving Peddie the ball. Sluka lost a yard, but was also shaken up and left the game. In came third-string quarterback Liam McHugh, who found Justin Shorter in the end zone for a 16-yard score and Peddie was back in front, 35-32. Hun’s next two drives resulted in a turnover on downs at their 46 and 37-yard lines. Peddie kept to the ground with Shorter in the wildcat, but they also turned it over on downs, giving Hun one last chance on their 16 with 1:18 left. A hook-and-ladder pass to DeGennaro lateralling to Franzoni netted 11 yards, followed by an incompletion and a Shorter interception with 59 seconds left.
Peddie – 14-7-7-7-35
Hun – 6-14-12-0-32
H – Clouse to DeGennaro, 45 yards (run failed)
P – Sluka, 1-yard run (kick good)
P – Sluka, 4-yard run (kick good)
H – Franzoni, 81-yard run (run failed)
P – Sluka to Shipp, 49 yards (kick good)
H – Clouse to Franzoni, 64 yards (Clouse to Deveney)
H – Dixon, 11-yard run (run failed)
P – Sluka, 9-yard run (kick good)
H – Franzoni, 80-yard run (run failed)
P – McHugh to Shorter, 16 yards (kick good)
Peddie was led by Sluka, who had 265 yards of total offense in just over three quarters of action. He rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries and completed 11 of 19 for 142 yards and one touchdown. He made things happen and bought time in the passing game with his scrambling, reminiscent of Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton. McHugh showed poise coming in for an injured Sluka and throwing the winning score. Shorter caught the winning touchdown pass, intercepted Hun’s last ditch pass with one minute left, and his play out of the wildcat on their last drive enabled Peddie to consume three of the game’s final four minutes.
The Peddie defense was able to bottle Franzoni up for a good portion of the day. While he had a 167 yards on 14 carries, but subtract the two rushing touchdowns that covered 161 yards, he had 5 yards on 12 carries.
The negative for Peddie was the 18 penalties they committed, including 12 in the first half. Two pass interference penalties on the first drive of the second half were instrumental in Hun taking the lead, including one on fourth down.
For Hun, Franzoni showed enough on his three touchdowns to be a weapon from any point on the field. Touchdowns covering 80, 81, and 64 yards were 225 of the team’s 399 yards of offense: 56 percent. It took 45 plays to accomplish the other 44 percent.
What hurt Hun was their lack of a kicking game. Both teams had five touchdowns, but Peddie converted all five extra point opportunities for 5 points. Hun went for two all five times and converted only one for 2 points. In addition, three times in the fourth quarter, they went for it on fourth down, coming up short all three times. With a better kicking game, they probably would have punted on at least two of those drives and field position would have been a different story.
Peddie head coach Chris Malleo: “It was an incredible game played by two good football teams. Somebody had to lose and we were fortunate to win. When Sluka went out hurt, our second string quarterback (Davis Warren) was also out hurt, and Aidan McHugh was prepared for the moment when we needed him most. Sluka is a good player who can make you say ‘oh no,’ until he makes you say “oh yeah!’ He’s fun to coach and he creates good matchups.”
Hun head coach Todd Smith: “This game is on me; I didn’t have them prepared and we left eight points on the field.”
Peddie quarterback Matthew Sluka: “It’s huge having three quarterbacks because you never know and we just did what we do in practice. This is my first year here and I didn’t know what the Hun game means, but after this game, I understand. It was a very tough game and we knew they were good.” **Sluka is a post-graduate who played his high school football at Kellenberg on Long Island and is from Locust Valley, on the north shore.
Peddie quarterback Aidan McHugh: “It’s a team game and I knew I was going to have an opportunity. I knew my pass had a good chance when it left my hands (on the winning touchdown).”
Peddie wide receiver/defensive back Justin Shorter: “On the interception, I simply read the play from the beginning and knew it was going to DeGennaro. The winning touchdown was a crazy play; we tried it three times and it didn’t work. The ball was thrown, I had to make a play, and I did.”
Malleo on Hun running back Ian Franzoni: “He’s tough, hard, and smart. Brown is lucky to be getting a phenomenal kid. I’ve gotten to know him and i only have good things to say about him.”