The winner of the annual Black and Blue Bowl rivalry game between Marlboro and Highland not only gets a shiny totem to display in its trophy case for an entire year, but local bragging rights about football supremacy as well. On Friday evening at Carl F. Meekins Field, the Dukes beat Highland 55-12 to capture the trophy for the eighth consecutive year, as they maintained the upper hand in the long-running competition between the neighboring schools. “It just shows our dominance,” Marlboro junior quarterback Sam Mongelli said of the bowl win. “It’s been sitting in our school for a couple of years now. It’s really nice because I’ve got a few buddies on that team, so it’s really competitive and it’s really fun to win it.”
As fine a win as it was for Marlboro (2-0), the loss could be equally costly in the long run for Highland (0-2), as junior starting quarterback Julian Meltz left the game in the third quarter with what appeared to be a serious collarbone injury. “We haven’t gotten the official diagnosis yet, so we’re still waiting to hear,” Highland head coach John McFarland said. “Julian played a great game. He was really making some great plays with his legs and his arm.” Meltz was on fire in the first quarter, staking the Huskies to an early lead with two long touchdown runs, but Highland couldn’t withstand Marlboro’s high-octane offense over the course of four quarters.
Deploying a two-headed quarterback monster of Mongelli and senior QB Phil DeSantis, the Dukes are making opposing defenses dizzy with the array of looks they can roll out from down to down. After Meltz sliced through the Marlboro defense for a 15-yard touchdown run to put Highland up 6-0 at the 10:08 mark of the first quarter, DeSantis powered into the end zone for the first of his four rushing touchdowns of the night, a nine-yard score that made it 7-6 Dukes with 4:49 remaining in the first.
Meltz (4-8, 56 yards passing) then broke off an impressive 49-yard touchdown dash just 48 seconds later to give Highland a 12-7 lead. “My hat’s off to Highland because they came out with a lot of energy and I don’t think we matched it,” Dukes head coach Rich Ward said. “We had a misread on a pass play and a broken assignment on defense. That’s two more possessions for them. I think we cleaned it up as we went, but you can’t get down every week and continue to fight back.”
Faced with an early deficit, Marlboro turned to its pair of playmaking quarterbacks, and from that point on the Dukes reeled off a 48-0 run to capture another Black and Blue Bowl. DeSantis began the scoring spree by bobbing and weaving through the defense for a 25-yard touchdown run to give Marlboro a 14-12 advantage with 2:16 left in the first quarter. “The linemen put a great hole for me in the front and I got to the secondary and just started making some cuts,” DeSantis said. “That kind of blocking up front is all I can ask for.”
Mongelli (5-8, 143 yards passing, 2 TDs) then lofted a pass to wide receiver John Perugino that the senior held onto in tight coverage for a 37-yard TD reception to give the Dukes a 21-12 lead with 11.6 seconds to go in the opening frame, as the Marlboro quarterbacks continued to attack from all angles. “It just shows how versatile we are, and we can run any play at any second,” Mongelli said. “With two different dudes, we’ve got a lot of people off-balance I think. I’m sure teams might be expecting a lot of the plays we run out of the formation with me and Phil on the field, but it’s going to be hard to stop with our speed and our strength.”
Mongelli then notched his third touchdown run of the evening with a one-yard score (after Perugino had busted off a 66-yard gallop to get down into the red zone) to put Marlboro up 28-12 with 3:11 remaining in the second. In a game in which both Dukes quarterbacks caused so much damage, it was only fitting that DeSantis then found Mongelli for a 17-yard touchdown reception with 58 seconds left in the half to give Marboro a 35-12 lead heading into the break. “I had a feeling it was going to happen, because I haven’t caught a touchdown pass in about four years,” Mongelli laughed. “It was pretty nice. I trusted Phil to get the ball to me or John (Perugino) on our route, and he connected with me.” The duo has displayed impressive chemistry through Marlboro’s first two games this season. “We’re both confident in each other and we know we can rely on each other,” DeSantis said. “That’s a great thing to have. This combination is hard to beat because they don’t know what to expect.”
Meltz was injured on Highland’s first possession of the second half as he took a bruising sack, and the Dukes continued to pour it on. DeSantis (9 carries for 103 yards rushing) pocketed his fourth touchdown of the game on a six-yard QB keeper to put his team up 42-12 at the 3:24 mark of the third quarter. “Marlboro is a good team, and they do exactly what they should do in the offseason, like hitting the weights,” McFarland said. “I thought our guys showed a lot of resilience in the game. We played hard and with heart. I think even after some injuries, we got some guys in different positions and kept moving the ball. Some drives stalled, but I still think we moved the ball pretty well.”
Mongelli then connected with junior receiver Zachary Bayon on a 26-yard touchdown pass to give Marlboro a 48-12 lead with 1:43 left in the third, and just when it looked like the squad’s signal callers were done contributing for the night, sophomore quarterback Christian Diorio ripped off a highlight 84-yard touchdown run to clinch the 55-12 final with 4:19 remaining in the game. “Each kid does things well,” Ward said of Marlboro’s quarterbacks. “We don’t run different plays for different kids, they’re all running the same offense and the same plays. I’m very happy with it. That’s a good problem to have. My hat’s off to those kids for competing against each other, caring about each other and not fighting for the ball. They work really well together.”
Highland will visit Red Hook this Friday as they attempt to regroup, while the Dukes will now travel to Spackenkill for a 1:30 p.m. tilt on Sept. 16 as the team hopes to keep up the momentum through the non-league portion of its schedule. In the meantime, Marlboro will celebrate another Black and Blue Bowl victory while they look down the road to bigger goals, like recapturing the Section 9, Class B title. “I think anytime you play the game you strive for excellence and you strive to compete and win,” Ward said. “We don’t want to give up that trophy, and there’s other trophies out there that we need back as well.”
By Ted Remsnyder