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Madison Win? Think Again


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Madison, Madison, Madison, Madison, Madison, and Madison. Those were the predictions of six high school sports analysts for the victor of the Verona vs. Madison game. Madison had won the last five engagements in 2013, 2016, 2017, 2021, and 2022. Pundits assumed Saturday’s match to be a foregone conclusion, but Verona’s passion, effort, and intensity gave a disregarded game an extraordinary close.

The game began with a slow-moving Verona drive, until a well-timed screen to #44 Bodie Maisano (running back, linebacker) gave Verona a first down. Despite this, a series of skillful tackles by Madison led to Verona to call a punt. It was nearly blocked by Madison, forcing #2 Kieran Patel to attempt a run.

Unfortunately for Verona, they could not get far enough for a first down and Madison got possession. Madison then proceeded to drive down the field to the 10-yard line, where a one-handed catch at the back of the endzone gave them a 7-0 lead. With Verona back on offense it was a make-or-break moment. Either the team would respond or falter. At the start of the drive, a 15-yard run by Maisano brought Verona into Dodger territory. After a Madison penalty and another 25-yard run by Maisano, Verona entered the red zone. A jumping catch midair by #23 Zach Garmont (receiver, safety) gave Verona its first score of the day. Taking over on offense, Madison attempted to run the ball down the center of Verona’s line. However, stiff resistance from #52 Shane Costigan (guard, defensive tackle) led to only a few runs getting through, which in turn were stopped by #13 Salvatore Santos-DiTrani (receiver, safety). With Madison unable to put together a big play, the first quarter ran out.

The second quarter started off differently, with Madison running a screen, bringing them to the Verona 20. However, numerous tackles by Maisano and penalties on Madison caused them to attempt a field goal kick, which was missed. Receiving the ball, Verona ran a screen to Maisano, who ran for 50 yards to the Dodger 30. A 30-yard connection from #10 Connor Demasi to Garmont sealed the deal with a touchdown. An extra point by Patel brought the score to 14-7.

Madison refused to back down, throwing a pass to their best wide receiver #7 Greg Randall, who ran for 50 yards. Nevertheless, Madison was not able to capitalize on this due to tackles from #22 Dean Algieri (receiver, outside linebacker) and coverage from Santos-DiTrani, being forced to settle for a field goal. Verona took over on offense with less than two minutes remaining in the half. With Madison concentrating on the run, a 70-yard pass to Garmont caught the Dodgers off-guard and gave Verona another touchdown. With Madison on offense once more, well-placed passes managed to score them a touchdown to bring the score to 21-17. Despite a 30-yard kick return from Garmont, the clock ran out in the second quarter.

The second half began with both teams reinvigorated. Madison again passed the ball to Randall for a 75-yard reception for a touchdown. Verona, for the first time since the first quarter, was now down 24-21. Refusing to let this affect morale, Verona rallied with catches from #5 Gianluca Checchetto (receiver, cornerback) and Algieri, bringing Verona past the 50. Small runs by Maisano prolonged the drive, along with more receptions from Algieri and #42 Marc Nigro (full back, defensive end). The anticipation led up to a massive 30-yard throw to Garmont, for yet another touchdown. Verona now again had the lead 24-28. The match, however, continued with a fast offensive tempo. Madison, in spite of tackles by Costigan, #20 Jayden Nigro (receiver, outside linebacker), and #81 John Paul Alfano (receiver, outside linebacker), continued down the field for a touchdown. With Verona on offense anew, the third quarter came to a close.

At the start of the fourth quarter, Verona’s offense looked to be stalling near the 50, but a 20-yard reception from Maisano kept the drive going. Another pass to Maisano could have led the offense to the 10-yard line, but it was brought back due to a penalty. Madison blocked a field goal attempt, keeping the score 31-28.

Nonetheless, Madison’s offensive capabilities were hampered due to tackles, penalties, and fatigue. Fatigue was heavy in the fourth quarter from the game’s intensity, leading to several cramps on both sides. At last, tackles from Algieri and #11 Jesse Wagner (receiver, cornerback) forced a Madison punt. It looked like it would be an extremely tough task for Verona to put any points on the board, judging by the time left in the game. However, a botched snap and effective tackling instead caused Verona to take over only 30 yards from the Dodger endzone. Regrettably for Verona, penalties began to interfere with the offense’s ability to score.

With only one minute left, Demasi connected with Garmont, bringing Verona to the five-yard line. Two plays later, a pass to Maisano gave Verona the lead 34-31. After a kick return, Madison took over with 16 seconds left. A reception by Madison brought Verona to the 45-yard line, but they were unable to connect the next play, leaving them with one second left. Out of field goal range, the only possible option was a touchdown. And a touchdown was very nearly scored on that play, by Verona. Wagner managed to intercept the ball and ran it all the way until he was downed at the one-yard line. That concluded one of the biggest upsets in the entire state.

“It was an all-around great team performance,” said Demasi. “The O-Line had a big part in the game by giving our running back holes to go through and giving me time to pass the ball. The defense stepped up when we needed them and they delivered the game-ending pick. We are going to carry this momentum we have built and bring that same energy into the week for Weequahic.”

Verona will try to repeat such a feat next week against Weequahic High School, a very strong opponent. But if we’ve learned anything this week, it’s that nobody is out of contention, and even an underdog who nobody says has a chance, can still win. The game will be away on Friday, September 8 at 7 p.m.

Photos copyright Mike Perry. Used by permission.

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Daniel Frenklakh
Daniel Frenklakh
High school writer following football, marching band, swimming and various high school events.


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