SCHENECTADY – Holy Trinity quarterback Joe Tortello entered rarified territory Saturday, Sept. 15.
The junior joined five other quarterbacks in New York State high school football history in throwing eight touchdown passes in a single game, as he led the Pride to a 56-20 victory over Canajoharie-Fort Plain in a Section 2 Class C Central Division game at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons.
How Tortello threw eight touchdown passes and 377 yards had as much to do with him as it had to do with the speed and elusiveness of his receivers. Players such as junior Noah Foster, junior Nacier Hundley and sophomore Todd Williamson turned Tortello’s screen passes into big gains against Canajoharie-Fort Plain’s defense.
“We knew coming in that they were going to run man-to-man [defense],” said Tortello. “But, we feel we have the fastest team in the section.”
“We tried everything we could to take [the screen passes] away, but we kept getting caught,” said Canajoharie-Fort Plain head coach Shannon Hyney. “The kids just didn’t recognize it.”
The first sign Holy Trinity had found Canajoharie-Fort Plain’s weakness was when Foster caught a screen from Tortello and eluded several Cougar tacklers down the right sideline until he got into Canajoharie-Fort Plain territory. Several plays later, Tortello connected with Hundley on a 9-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead.
That would not be the last time Tortello and Hundley teamed up to get Holy Trinity into the end zone. They connected on three more scoring strikes in the first half, as the Pride pulled out to a 35-6 halftime lead.
Holy Trinity’s defense also played a key role in building the Pride’s commanding lead by intermission. Junior Omari Carmon intercepted a Derek Hyney pass to halt a Canajoharie-Fort Plain drive in the first quarter. On the next play, Hundley turned a Tortello screen into another big gain before he was tripped up from behind at the Cougars’ 1-yard line. Tortello connected with Hundley again for the touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
After Tortello hit Foster on a 9-yard scoring strike to start the second quarter, senior Nelon Priest intercepted Hyney near midfield to set up Holy Trinity’s fourth scoring drive of the half – capped by a 2-yard pass from Tortello to Hundley. Later in the quarter, Hundley picked off Hyney in Holy Trinity territory to thwart another Cougars drive.
It appeared as if Canajoharie-Fort Plain was in for a long afternoon until a big punt return by senior Joe Nare set up the Cougars at the Pride’s 26-yard line. Hyney threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to senior Isiah Logan to get Canajoharie-Fort Plain on the scoreboard.
Holy Trinity was not content to let that be the final touchdown of the first half, though. After receiving the ensuing kickoff, Hundley caught one more screen pass from Tortello and broke free for a 70-yard scoring play with six seconds remaining in the second quarter. William Lawson’s extra point gave the Pride their 35-6 halftime advantage.
Tortello showed his arm strength at the start of the third quarter when he unleashed a 47-yard touchdown pass to Foster on fourth down and 28. He then went back to the screen pass for his final two touchdowns – a 63-yard catch-and-run by Priest, and a 13-yard scoring strike to Williamson.
“We worked a lot on that [screen pass] in practice,” said Holy Trinity coach John Barber. “We run it first, and we run it often.”
Nare rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown for Canajoharie-Fort Plain, while Hyney completed seven of 15 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Hyney also ran for a touchdown late in the third quarter to cap a long scoring drive.
For a photo gallery from this game, click here.