By BRIAN CUNNIFF
WILDWOOD — Ernie Troiano IV enjoyed one of the best games of his high school career Saturday.
The senior quarterback threw for more than 200 yards and a touchdown, had two long touchdown runs and also ran for a two-point conversion.
But Troiano might not have been celebrating a Homecoming victory with his teammates if not for two massive short-yardage stops by the Warrior defense in the second half.
Those two defensive stops and big office output from Troiano, his brother, Dom, and his cousin Ryan, sparked Wildwood to a 22-6 win over Riverside in a battle of previously winless teams on a glorious late October day at Warrior Stadium at Maxwell Field.
With Wildwood ahead 8-0, Riverside’s Ivan Ramos-Lopez stunned the pro Warrior crowd with a 68-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. But the Warriors held their lead after stopping the two-point conversion try just shy of the end zone. Later, midway through the fourth quarter, Wildwood got a massive defensive stop on a fourth-and-1 play at midfield, holding the runner for no gain.
“We had to dig deep,” Ernie Troiano said. “That was the biggest fourth down we were going to see all year and that was the biggest two-point conversion we were going to see all year. We had to dig deep and we dug deep.”
After the fourth-down stop, Troiano gave Wildwood some breathing room with a 49-yard touchdown run after he decided to keep the ball on an option play. A two-point conversion catch by Ryan Troiano gave Wildwood a two-score lead at 16-6 with 5:32 to play.
After Riverside turned the ball over on downs, Ernie Troiano capped the scoring with a 23-yard touchdown run with 3:48 left.
Ernie Troiano finished 13 for 27 through the air for 220 yards. Seven of his completions went to his brother, who finished with 121 receiving yards.
“Seniors on Homecoming Day, it’s amazing how they step up, especially Dom and Ernie,” Wildwood coach Ken Loomis said with a smile. “They’ve put the work in all four years. They’ve gotten the crap kicked out of them in a lot of games. So to be able to ball out and get a win on Homecoming during their senior year is a testament to them and their hard work and toughness.”
Ryan Troiano, a sophomore, put Wildwood on the board in the first half with a 44-yard touchdown reception from Ernie Troiano, who then ran in for the two-point conversion.
Ryan Troiano wasn’t the only young player to shine. Sophomore Junior Hans had three catches for 55 yards. Freshman Nick Kroesche had four tackles for losses. Sophomore David Rosa picked off a pass.
“Our young kids step up and play,” Loomis said. “They know the demands and they meet the bar. We’re looking to continue to build with them.”
The large crowd on hand gave Wildwood’s players a standing ovation as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“Every win is great but to win on Homecoming with all the fans here, it’s a phenomenal feeling,” Loomis said. “It’s a heck of a day.”