When the game was sealed, Bishop Timon-St. Jude coach Charlie Comerford celebrated like he was back in high school: jumping, spinning and fist-pumping in sheer joy.
It’s something he never could do as a player for Timon: Beat St. Joe’s.
In a thrilling Monsignor Martin game between top 10 large schools, senior Tommy Gioia’s 39-yard field goal with 10:10 left gave No. 7 Timon a 17-14 victory over No. 2 St. Joe’s, handing the Marauders their first loss of the season and capping off a wild homecoming celebration at South Buffalo’s chilly Fitzpatrick Field.
The victory is Timon’s first over St. Joe’s since 2002.
“I actually never beat St. Joe’s when I played here,” said Comerford. “I told our guys that all week. St. Joe’s is a great football team, and if we play them in the playoffs it’s going to be a war, but for tonight, it’s a pretty gratifying experience.”
Timon (5-2, 3-0) jumped to a 14-0 lead, but St. Joe’s (6-1, 2-1) cut it to 14-7 at halftime and tied the game at 14-14 on junior Rod Payne’s 23-yard run with 3:32 left in the third quarter.
On Timon’s next drive, it faced a fourth and 12 at the St. Joe’s 22. Comerford sent for the 5-foot-9, 255-pound Gioia.
“Tommy’s the kind of guy that wherever you put him, he’s going to come through,” said Comerford, who said Gioia has played at center and quarterback due to some of Timon’s injuries. “He’s a great kid and I couldn’t feel any better for him to have the game-winning kick.”
The kick thudded off of his foot and sailed high and straight through the uprights.
“I just tried keeping my head in it, going through my rhythm,” said Gioia, who had six tackles on defense. “The snap was perfect, the hold was perfect and I had to do the rest from there.
“Once we got close enough, I had a feeling that I could get called [to kick]. When we really didn’t get any yards [for a first down] I knew it would be up to me to make it. It feels amazing. It’s been so long since we’ve actually beat St. Joe’s. Now we finally got it.”
Gioia followed his kick with an excellent onside kick, which he rolled right in front of him and then recovered himself. The Tigers couldn’t put a scoring drive together but kept the momentum.
St. Joe’s, which was plagued by mistakes throughout the game (four turnovers), was contained by Timon’s defense and never really threatened to put a drive together.
St. Joe’s last shot came with 25 seconds left from its own 24, but junior quarterback Dennis Gilbert Jr.’s pass was intercepted by Timon junior Brandon Donahue, setting off the massive celebration in the Timon stands and on the Tigers’ sideline.
“It was a great feeling,” said Comerford. “If we play these guys 10 times, we’d each probably win five times. They’re a great team. It’s just a great feeling for our kids.”
JD Recor, the senior for Timon who had been ruled ineligible by the Monsignor Martin, played in the game after his family’s lawyer obtained a temporary injunction. He saw time on offense, defense and kick returns.
Junior Adam DiMillo ran 22 times for 171 yards for Timon. St. Joe’s played without injured junior standout Nigel Davis.