MSD varsity football dominates Olympic Heights after Senior Night celebration


Carolina Ochoa Lozano

Linebacker Zachary Kracjczewski (44) gets recognition as one of the MSD varsity football team’s seniors. The team hosted their Senior Night on their Oct. 29 match against Olympic Heights, celebrating their 25 seniors.

Carolina Ochoa Lozano and Reece Gary

The festivities for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School varsity football team’s Senior Night began at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29. Facing off against Olympic Heights High School, the match was the final home game of the varsity football season. This game was particularly special, as it was Senior Night not only for the MSD football team but for the cheerleaders, Eagle Regiment and color guard.

The 2023 varsity football team has 25 seniors who were filled with emotions as it was their last game playing on the Cumber Stadium field.

“I know that personally, this group of seniors have been here since Coach Short’s first year head coaching, and we have all been together throughout,” linebacker Tehzib Phillip (22) said. “This group of seniors are the best leaders that I have witnessed on the team.”

Before the Eagles began the game, the senior players were recognized for their dedication to the team, reflecting on their efforts put towards their last season with the Eagles. Additionally, special recognition was given to selected MSD teachers who impacted these players’ lives. Titled “My Jersey, Your Impact,” the senior cheer, regiment and football teams of the 2022-2023 school year started the tradition of giving their uniforms to the impactful teachers.. More than 15 different teachers received a jersey from football seniors, with even more receiving regiment and cheer equipment.

After the festivities, kickoff began, and the Eagles used the Senior Night momentum to dominate early against the opposing Olympic Heights team. With a handoff to running back Clayton Cannon Jr. (1) that turned into an 80-yard run, the Eagles scored an early touchdown, giving them a 7-0 lead.

With the Eagles’ defense quickly stopping the Olympic Heights offense, the opposition was forced to punt. However, the punt was unsuccessful as the Eagles were able to block the ball and recover it. Quickly grabbing the loose football, the Eagles scored their second touchdown of the game, making the score 14-0 early on.

After another failed Olympic Heights possession, the Eagles had three consecutive rushes for seven, nine and 35 yards, respectively. In the red-zone, running back Justin Spano (3) carried a 19-yard rush for another Eagles touchdown.

The Eagles kept their momentum going, gaining possession again almost immediately. With another big play, Cannon Jr. was able to run 45 yards for a touchdown, giving the Eagles a 28-0 lead.

Shortly thereafter, on the following drive, Spano received a pitch that he took to the opposing end zone for a 47-yard running touchdown. As the first quarter’s clock ran down, the Eagles moved onto the second with a commanding lead of 35-0.

Starting the second quarter, the Eagles continued to dominate as they had multiple early rushes, including a 29-yard run by Spano. This led to another passing touchdown thrown by quarterback Ryan Spallina (15), falling into the hands of Spano to raise the Eagles’ lead to 42.

With the Eagles maintaining their dominating lead, they began to slow down on offense as they progressively removed more starting players before the first half’s end. Just before the half concluded, Spallina made a quarterback rush for a 30-yard touchdown, improving the score to 49-0.

“Our team played well because of our chemistry,” linebacker Abdelkareem Farraj (31) said. “We initially played scared this season because a lot of seniors left last year. We didn’t think we could be that good, but our chemistry is crazy. We are taking that a long way this year.”

By the second half, the Eagles’ coaching staff had taken out almost all of the starting roster, allowing some of the team’s newer players to show their skill. Although no longer scoring, the Eagles defense was able to continue to hold Olympic Heights to 0 points. At the game’s end, the score was 49-0 in favor of the Eagles.

“All three phases of the ball, offense, defense, and special teams, we played the best we’ve played all year, and it shows. We shut Olympic Heights out and put up almost 50 points, while the other team didn’t put up any,” Phillip said.

Under the motivation sparked by the Senior Night festivities, the Eagles were able to command their opposition in their final home match of the season. Moving forward, they look towards their final seasonal game on Oct. 4 against Coral Glades High School and their first playoff match against Santaluces High School on Oct. 11.