MEXICO — Now that the Mexico varsity football team has reached the end of the regular season, there’s a little more excitement surrounding the team compared to last year.
After a 5-0 record during the spring season, there was nothing to truly look forward to. Even with an undefeated record, there were no Section III playoffs to strive for from day one.
Following a 56-12 rout of Oswego Thursday, the Tigers are bound for the Section III Independent League playoffs, and are looking to maintain home-field advantage.
“It was anti-climatic last year. It was nice to go 5-0 but when you have playoffs to look forward to, now the pressure comes on,” Mexico coach Tee Murabito said. “Now you see kids perform under the lights and pressure of the playoffs. I’m looking forward to it. I want to see our guys stand up to the challenge.”
The game against the Buccaneers was also Senior Night for Mexico. The roster boasts just four seniors this year — Jacob Hill, Evan Hardy, Ethan West and Mark Hoadley.
West had 115 passing yards with a touchdown, as well as 35 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Hardy ran for 69 yards with a touchdown. Hoadley had an interception, 94 rushing yards with two touchdowns, and 56 receiving yards with a touchdown. Hill went 6-7 on extra point kicks. In the process, his season total is now 30. He broke the school record after his first kick of the night — No. 25 — was good.
Murabito added that all four seniors had “their own little niche” in the victory. Throughout the season, the seniors have brought back the “family” aspect of football, including work ethic and leadership.
“On Senior Night, you always want to have it a little special for them. … They’re really important for us. I’m glad they all shined tonight,” Murabito said. “All the intangibles you want in a good football player to promote your program and to promote your football family. These guys all have it and then some. I couldn’t be prouder of them. I’m going to miss them terribly next year. It’s hard to replace guys like that.”
It wasn’t just the seniors that had a big night for the Tigers. Mason Zych added 64 rushing yards with two touchdowns, while tacking on a 24-yard reception. Isaiah Henson chipped in 28 yards on the ground plus a touchdown, while Taion Zych (41 yards) and Dominic Alfano-Kimball (15 yards) contributed some yardage on the group.
Hunter Lasinski caught two passes for 35 yards, and also had an eight-yard pass on an unusual play that went from West to Lasinski to Mason Zych.
“They all executed. They were motivated,” Murabito said. “We didn’t get to play last week, so our guys were really looking forward to getting to play tonight.”
The Mexico coaching staff also got in several members from its second team in the latter stages of the contest, such as Taion Zych, Alfano-Kimball and Henson — players that will look to carry the banner after this season.
Murabito added that he likes to get a good “mixture” of starters and reserve players on the field at the same time in situations like Thursday, making sure all the players get to work together helping build team chemistry.
“When they’re coming to practice, they get excited because they know there’s a good chance they’re going to get in the game. When they get in there, they just want to have fun,” Murabito said. “They come to practice every day, too. They deserve to get out there. It’s nice that our older guys cheer them on when they get out there.”
Oswego was limited in its offensive production. Moreno Fenty threw for 27 yards, while recording an 18-yard touchdown pass to Christian Andaluz. Fenty also ran for 78 yards. Dylan Dunsmoor ran for 71 yards, including a three-yard touchdown. He also had two receptions totaling nine years. Gavin Mills had 10 rushing yards, while Tyler Beck added five yards on the ground.
Murabito gave credit, again, to defensive coordinator John Hansen with his strong game plan.
“We help him out when he needs help, but Hansen’s pretty much got it squared away,” Murabito said. “What our philosophy is, we want to make sure teams go 12 plays and (we) don’t break. It’s very hard for a high school football team to go 12 plays without making mistakes. We try to preach that — don’t give up the big plays and just play tough and physical defense.”
Mexico (4-1) has its eyes set on the playoffs now, looking to keep playing in front of the Tiger faithful.
“We love playing in our own house. We’ve got great fans here. … I think it’s nice buzz for our community to have that kind of thing going on,” Murabito said. “It’s a big thing for us to stay here on our field for the next week or two.”