Greece Athena's win over Penfield had to feel extra special.
The Trojans fought off a tremendous offensive effort from the Patriots that included three first-half touchdowns. They also had to deal with a weather delay that extended halftime by over 40 minutes.
Athena (2-0) was up to the challenge as they defeated Penfield (0-2) 30-21 on Thursday at Penfield.
"It brought me back to when I was I kid, playing in the backyard," said Rob Cerrone, Trojans head coach. "The last few plays it was really hard to see the ball. I like how we responded and played much better in the second half."
The first half featured plenty of back-and-fourth action as the teams went into the half tied at 21. Their stay inside Penfield High School was extended as thunder in the area put the game in a delay.
The delay slowed down the Patriots who punted twice and turned it over on downs in their second half possessions.
Ricky Federico, who finished with three touchdowns, gave Athena a 27-21 lead with a 10-yard run with 3:21 remaining in the third quarter. Cameron Orlando connected on a 25-yard field goal 8:30 left in the fourth to secure the Trojan win.
"If they are going to schedule games at (5 p.m.) in the fall they are going to have to make sure we get a full game in without delays," said Greg Geesler, Penfield head coach. "Our kids came out and fought. We just have to keep fighting and stay on the same course."
The Patriots, who played well in a 28-13 loss to Brockport last weekend, quickly gained control of the game as Trent Maurer took a screen pass 55-yards for a touchdown to give Penfield a 7-0 lead with 6:02 left in the first quarter. Maurer finished with 234 yards of total offense.
He ran it in from 11 yards out on the Patriots' second drive to give them a 14-7 lead with 2:37 left in the first quarter. Athena scored the next two touchdowns to take a 21-14 advantage but Penfield tied the game as quarterback Jake Paladino connected with Jake O'Connor for a 4-yard touchdown with 7:19 left in the second quarter.
"Our kids fight," Geesler said. "They want to turn this thing around as much as the coaches do. They battle. We have some great kids who can make plays. I've never had to question the grit or resolve of this team."
Maurer wasn't only one making big plays on Thursday. Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter Athena got a spark from junior tailback Signory Kapend who returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
Federico scored on touchdown passes of 65 and 20 yards gave the Trojans a 21-14 lead early in the second quarter. The senior tailback finished with 214 total yards.
Page 2 of 2 - "I didn't expect a game like that," Federico said. "We expected to come out strong in the first half but we were a little confused. We came together though, talked some things over (at halftime) and got back in the game."
While the Patriots, one of Section 5's long-suffering programs, appear to have turned a corner in their rebuilding process, Athena appears to be returning to the days when they were one of the Monroe County League's most consistent programs.
The Trojans 2-0 start is their first since 2009, when they finished the regular season 5-2. Athena has not earned five wins in the regular season the last three years.
"It feels so great right now," Kapend said. "We feel like this is our year, and our time. Being 2-0 sets the tone for us to keep going."