Chris Spadaccini started for the varsity football team for three years before he graduated from Pearl River High School earlier this year, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play against Nanuet again.
Thursday morning, Spadaccini got his chance when he played in his first Little Brown Jug Alumni Football Game, the annual Thanksgiving day game between alumni from Pearl River and Nanuet High Schools. The Pirates went just 1-3 against Nanuet while Spadaccini was at Pearl River, but the one win came his senior year. And after Thursday’s 10-6 Pearl River victory at Nanuet High School, he’s on a bit of a streak against the Golden Knights.
“I’ve won two in a row and I don’t plan on losing to them,” he said, adding he hopes to pay in future alumni games as well.
While Spadaccini was one of many who graduated within the past two years to play in the game, there were plenty playing that graduated in the 1990s, and one player on Pearl River who graduated in 1989.
They were very welcoming,” Spadaccini said of his older teammates. “In fact, they wanted us on the field more because I guess we’re in better shape. Very nice guys, very respectful.”
There was a noticeable difference between Thursday games and the ones he played in high school, however.
“Without a doubt, the hardest-hitting game I’ve ever played in,” Spadaccini said. “Playing against real adults, it’s pretty legit and they hit you pretty hard.”
Pearl River coach Craig Griffin, who graduated in 1990 and was playing in his 22nd straight alumni game, said that’s just how the games go when the Pirates and Knights meet.
“It’s just a great rivalry, hard-hitting,” Griffin said. “You can’t expect anything less than that. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Keith Jarvis, who graduated from Nanuet in 2002, played in his third alumni game. He won his first and tied last year to give him a 1-1-1 record so far.
“It’s fun. It's just once a year. It’s a good time,” he said. “Everybody played hard, they just played a little better.”
Jarvis scored the only touchdown for Nanuet, running one in from close right at the end of the first quarter. The extra point was missed, giving Nanuet a 6-0 lead.
“It feels good [to score a touchdown], but we didn’t win so it means nothing,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis had a solid day on the ground, and said the last time he played in an organized game was the previous year’s alumni game.
Pearl River answered in the second quarter on field goal by Mike O’Sullivan, class of 2010, to cut Nanuet’s lead to 6-3 heading into the half. The two teams played a scoreless third and Pearl River took a lead it wouldn’t relinquish with a little less than seven minutes to go in the game.
Pat Aris, class of 2002, took a handoff to the right side and raced down to the six-yard line for Pearl River, setting the Pirates up for the go-ahead score. Shortly after, quarterback Dan O’Malley faked a handoff to the running back and really sold the play-action, turning his back to the defense and hiding the ball at his side. He turned around and threw it to the middle of the end zone for a receiver who caught it while stumbling to the ground. O’Sullivan knocked in the extra point to give Pearl River a 10-6 lead.
“It’s great to win, but it’s just great to be a part of it, great to come back and play,” Griffin said.
Mike Davis almost clinched the game on the other side of the ball a few drives later when he intercepted a pass from Nanuet quarterback Frank Jones with just 2:26 to go in the game. The Knights had all three of their timeouts, however, and forced a Pearl River three-and-out, getting the ball back with a little less than two minutes to go.
Nanuet couldn’t get anything going once it got the ball, though, losing the ball after four incomplete throws. During the drive, Jones delivered a few very catchable throws to open receivers, who simply couldn’t come up with the receptions. On first down, Jones threw a beautiful deep ball down the left sideline to a receiver who beat his man and was open by a few yards, but the ball just went through his hands.
Griffin said the two schools’ alumni associations organize the game, including having an ambulance at the field just in case. Nobody sought out medical attention during the game. There were three referees on hand, who donated their time, and an announcer in the booth calling the action. He also said he thinks the game goes as far back as the early 1960s, but he's not positive.
The funds raised at the game go to scholarships for students from both schools. Craig said during the year the alumni also raise money for scholarships and hold a pizza party for that year’s varsity team.
“It’s fun for us to get back out here and play again,” Craig said. “But it’s really all about the kids.”