It was a game they had to win if they wanted their season to continue.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School football team faced Monticello in its final regular season game Oct. 25, with a spot in the Section 9, Class A playoffs on the line. After dropping three straight games, it was win or go home for the Presidents.
The pressure was on, but the Presidents responded like a playoff team, dominating the visiting Panthers, 35-13, on a cold evening in Hyde Park.
With the victory, FDR secured third seed in the postseason.
“We are going to the playoffs,” FDR head coach Brian Bellino told The Observer. “We had lost three games in a row, and to get back on track right now and finish out at home is huge.”
It was clear from the very beginning that the Presidents were focused on punching their playoff ticket. Just 20 seconds into the game, running back Justin Hoskins took his team’s first play from scrimmage 76 yards for a touchdown.
Hoskins had a monster day for FDR, finishing with 239 yards and two touchdowns. The senior was making his third straight start in place of star running back Avery Strother, who tore his ACL against Cornwall back on Oct. 4.
With Strother out, Hoskins has anchored the FDR backfield, surprising even his head coach, who had been playing the senior mostly at defensive back prior to Strother’s injury.
“We knew how important Justin was to us for defensively, and for him to step up now has been great. He’s really played well,” Bellino said.
Despite getting on the scoreboard first, FDR allowed Monticello to come right back and tie the game just two minutes later, courtesy of a 10-yard quarterback run by John Harned. Both teams then exchanged touchdowns on the next two drives, and the first quarter ended with the score tied at 14.
In the second quarter, the FDR defense found a solution to the Monticello offense, forcing a three-and-out on the Panthers’ first drive of the quarter. This started a series of defensive stands by the Presidents that resulted in four Monticello punts in both the second and third quarter.
“After that first quarter, we really shut it down defensively,” Bellino said. “We’ve been missing some guys on defense, so we have been plugging some new guys. They have been trying to do things the right way [in terms of technique], and they stepped up tonight.”
In addition to forcing four punts, the Presidents also intercepted a Harned pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter, ending a late Monticello scoring drive.
Other key players for FDR were sophomore Keymero King (86 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and senior Dan Pelkey (56 rushing yards and a touchdown). As a team, the Presidents rushed for 448 yards.
The Presidents will next play second-seed Wallkill on Fri., Nov. 1 at 8pm at Faller Field in Middletown.