SPRINGFIELD – Roselle Park freshman Gabriel Amaya was prepared for the moment he was given to help his team come out on top.
“Before the game started I had him kick some field goals,” Roselle Park head coach Terry Hanratty said. “I had it in the back of my mind that we might use him.
“I said to him before the game, ‘you might have an opportunity.’”
What a spot for a freshman to enter a varsity football game for the first time. With the score tied and Roselle Park on the Dayton 12-yard line with 11.7 seconds left, Hanratty sent Amaya out there on second-and-10 to convert a possible 30-yard, game-winning field goal. Roselle Park, out of timeouts, had just spiked the ball to stop the clock after reaching the Dayton 12 on a 16-yard pass from Gavin Dunkerton to Nasir Williams.
“To ease the situation for him I said, ‘if you make it we’ll all be happy. If you don’t, the game will go to overtime,’” Hanratty said.
Amaya, who impressed Roselle Park’s coaching staff with his kicks in practice right from the start of the pre-season in August, got on the field not only for the first time in Friday night’s game at Dayton, but for the first time ever.
Roselle Park junior center David Torres provided a quality snap. Junior quarterback Gavin Dunkerton, the holder, placed the ball down perfectly.
The next thing anyone knew was that, after taking two steps and then with his right foot, Amaya solidly kicked a ball clearly through the middle of the goalposts and with plenty of room to spare. His kick, which could not have been more accurate, would have been good from 40 yards away.
Amaya’s 30-yard field goal propelled Roselle Park past Dayton 22-19 in Friday night’s Mid-State Conference-Union Division clash in Springfield. For No. 14 it will be a sports moment he will always remember quite fondly.
“I was really confident and I knew I hit it pretty good,” Amaya said. “I knew it was going to be good.”
“He has a lot of ability,” Hanratty said. “I was so surprised, he just went out there and drilled it.
“Nasir Williams said to him ‘you can do it’ and the other kids were also rallying behind him. I was very impressed. I knew he had the potential to do it.”
Roselle Park, which jumped out to a 13-0 lead by taking advantage of two Dayton first quarter miscues, never trailed. However, Dayton came back to tie the game twice in the fourth quarter, first at 13-13 and then again at 19-19.
Dayton was unsuccessful at scoring on a two-point conversion following its third touchdown.
Roselle Park improved to 1-2 overall and 1-2 in the Union Division. For the Panthers it was their first varsity win since Thanksgiving of 2017. Roselle Park, because of a lack of upperclassmen players, chose not to field a varsity team last year.
“Anything is possible at Roselle Park,” Hanratty said. “We go from 25 kids one year to the next year 50, with 18 freshmen showing up. I don’t know where they came from because we don’t have a youth program.”
Dayton, still seeking its first win on the field since 2017, fell to 0-3 overall and 0-3 in the Union Division. In spite of their record the Bulldogs have played much better so far this year.
One bright spot for the Bulldogs was the performance produced by senior running back Juan Perez. He carried the ball 19 times for 165 yards and one touchdown. Perez was toughest to bring down in the second half, gaining 93 yards on 12 attempts the final two quarters.
Dayton senior quarterback Anthony Apicella completed five-of-11 passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown pass, over the middle and good for 45 yards to senior wide receiver Aneus Brown, tied the game with 2:46 remaining.
On the second play of Roselle Park’s final scoring drive, Apicella almost came up with an interception near the Roselle Park 40-yard line.
Senior wide receiver Jovanni Salcfas caught Apicella’s first touchdown pass from 11 yards out with less than a minute to go before intermission.
Dunkerton completed four-of-seven passes for 47 yards and one touchdown. Junior running back Remy Fabrice rushed for 65 yards on 12 carries and caught a 19-yard touchdown pass.
Williams rushed for 84 yards on 16 attempts. He had 72 on 11 the first two quarters.
“The first week we were shell-shocked and the second week we were cramping up,” Hanratty said. “The third week we got a little bit better.
“It was a great victory for the town. The cheerleaders and the band were there and the players wanted to celebrate with them. I’m happy my kids never gave up.”
The same can be said of the Dayton Bulldogs, who overcame a couple of early mistakes to have a real shot at winning.
MID-STATE CONFERENCE-UNION DIVISION GAME
Roselle Park (1-2, 1-2) 13 00 00 09 – 22
Dayton (0-3, 0-3) 00 07 00 12 – 19
Roselle Park – Igor Maciel fumble recovery in end zone, Julian Colon kick
Roselle Park – Fabrice Remy 19 pass from Gavin Dunkerton, kick failed
3 plays, 22 yards, :52 used
Roselle Park capitalizes on turnover – fumble recovery by Igor Maciel.
Dayton – Jovanni Salcfas 11 pass from Anthony Apicella, David Ares kick
3 plays, 50 yards, :53 used
Dayton – Juan Perez 3 run, kick failed (13-13)
13 plays, 95 yards, 6:51 used
Roselle Park – Fabrice Remy 8 run, kick failed (RP 19-13)
9 plays, 67 yards, 7:05 used
Dayton – Aneus Brown 45 pass from Anthony Apicella, run failed
5 plays, 65 yards, 1:51 used
Roselle Park – FG Gabriel Amaya 30 (RP 22-19)
10 plays, from own 41 to Dayton 12, 2:36 used