By Phil Anastasia
It was a game with nearly as many second chances as first downs.
It was a game in which the two quarterbacks combined for 10 interceptions, but showed remarkable resiliency in rallying their teams with their arms, legs and ability to pick themselves up and dust themselves off.
It was game in which both teams looked to be down and out, and both teams found a way to battle back.
"They could have folded and they didn't and we could have folded and we didn't," Eastern coach Dan Spittal said after his team's 31-28 victory over Rancocas Valley in a wild West Jersey Football League inter-division clash of Top 10 teams on Saturday.
Eastern staged the game's final rally, erasing a 28-21 deficit as senior quarterback Tom Flacco overcame one of the most mistake-filled games of his career to guide the Vikings to 10 fourth-quarter points on a warm, humid afternoon at Rancocas Valley's Bill Gordon Field.
Eastern place-kicker Todd Spirt, who was 4-for-4 on etxra points, booted a 19-yard field goal with 2:00 on the clock as the Vikings, the No. 3 team in The Inquirer Top 25 rankings, improved their record to 4-0.
Flacco, who was 21-for-37 passing for 289 yards and a touchdown with five interceptions, deflected praise for the comeback and said his teammates proved they could win "without a quarterback."
But Flacco also ran 13 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns, including the tying score on a 20-yard scramble around left end early in the fourth quarter.
Spittal said Flacco's play in the fourth quarter -- after commiting six turnovers in the first three quarters, as he also lost a fumble -- was the mark of a competitor who didn't shy away from the stage despite his early struggles.
"He puts the burden of the offense on himself," Spittal said of Flacco. "He was there when we needed him."
Eastern senior Jared Levicoff made a huge 32-yard catch on the Vikings' go-ahead drive, adjusting to the ball on the right sideline. Eastern's Keshawn Segers also made a big catch in the drive, reaching back to snatch a 10-yard pass on third-and-7 from the 13.
Spittal said the win was "expensive" as senior all-purpose star T.J. Gardner was injured in the first half and spent the second half on the sideline on crutches.
Spittal said Gardner suffered a knee injury that "doesn't look good," although further testing will be needed to determine the full extent of the injury.
Rancocas Valley (2-1), the No. 9 team in the rankings, got four touchdowns from senior Alec Finelli and and an impressive performance from junior quarterback Jordan Sadusky, who threw five interceptions but rallied his team from a 21-0 deficit.
"We responded," Rancocas Valley coach Dan Haussman said of Eastern's 21-0 lead in the second quarter. "We were tested by a great team. We can build off that."
Sadusky threw two touchdown passes to Finelli in a span of 43 seconds late in the first half. The quarterback was 17-for-30 passing for 211 yards with two touchdowns and also set up a score with a 48-yard run.
"Playing against an opponent like this is only going to make him better," Haussman said.
After Eastern re-took the lead on Spirt's field goal, Sadusky led Rancocas Valley down the field, completing passes of 13 yards to Collin Wilson and 22 yards to Brandon Beslow.
But on fourth-and-3 from the Eastern 38, Segers recorded the game's 10th and final interception to seal the victory.
"It was a great game," said Segers, who had six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown as a receiver. "We'll see them again (in the South Jersey Group 5 tournament)."
Eastern 0 21 0 10 -- 31
Rancocas Valley 0 14 14 0 -- 28
E: David Wilcox 46 interception return (Todd Spirt kick)
E: Tom Flacco 5 run (Spirt kick)
E: Keshawn Segers 38 pass from Flacco (Spirt kick)
RV: Alec Finelli 11 pass from Jordan Sadusky (Elia Palmese kick)
RV: Finelli 27 pass from Sadusky (Palmese kick)
RV: Finelli 1 run (Palmese kick)
RV: Finelli 2 run (Palmese kick)
E: Flacco 20 run (Spirt kick)
E: Spirt 19 FG
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