SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – Sleepy Hollow High School football player Isaiah Sanjuan led the Horsemen to one of the most improbable comebacks in recent memory.
The Horsemen trailed undefeated and top seeded Brewster High School, 21-10, with less than two minutes remaining in the Section 1 Class A semifinals. The Bears had the ball and the crowd had already chanted, “Start the buses!”
But then one play changed everything.
Brewster tried to run out the clock but fumbled the ball. Sanjuan scooped it up and took off 59 yards to the end zone to cut the lead to 21-18 after a two-point conversion with 1:36 left.
Still, the chance for victory seemed slim after Brewster recovered the ensuing onside kick. Sleepy Hollow managed to force a punt by calling all three of its timeouts. The Horsemen took over at the Brewster 49-yard line with just 36 seconds remaining and no timeouts.
That’s when Sanjuan, who transferred to Sleepy Hollow from Stepinac High School, heard his coach call his number.
“Coach was like, ‘Alright, 10,’” Sanjuan said. “In practice, that’s the only play they run to me. They called 10. I went out. They threw it to me. I caught it.”
Quarterback Devin Lopez hit Sanjuan with a 49-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive to give Sleepy Hollow a 24-21 lead and cap off the remarkable comeback.
After the game, Sanjuan made the game-winning play sound so easy.
“The guy was covering me one-on-one, so I just stepped a little to the left and I just kept going straight,” Sanjuan said. “(Lopez) just put it up and I caught it.”
Some players would feel demoralized or dejected if faced with an 11-point deficit with almost no time left on the clock. But Sanjuan said he is at his best in those situations.
“To be honest, I like stuff like that,” Sanjuan said. “When I see the game like that, I don’t know what it is about me. It’s just something about me. It makes me want to play harder and it makes me want to just go at it, you know? I want to win. That’s my main thing. I want to win.”
The Horsemen had not really faced a situation like that in the regular season, but thanks to Sanjuan’s heroics, they came out on top and have a shot at the section championship.
“It’s more like we have to win,” Sanjuan said of the 21-10 deficit. “I grew up with all of them and it’s more like we have that strive to win. Our hearts are very open. We love each other. We play as a team and that’s just how it is.”