Heroes, champions and a fall season to remember

Garden City coach Tom Flatley stands on the Garden City coach Tom Flatley stands on the sideline during a game against Elmont. (Sept. 15, 2012) Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

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Gregg Sarra

Gregg Sarra is Newsday's high school sports columnist and writer. ...

The fall season of Long Island high school sports left us with delicious moments. There was Garden City football coach Tom Flatley, usually stoic and reserved, lifting the Class II championship trophy overhead surrounded by a team of overachievers, all who believed in Flatley, the Trojan way and each other.

And how about this? Flatley flashed a huge smile -- what could be his biggest in his 28 years directing one of Long Island's proudest programs during the celebration. And in that delirium proclaiming "this could be the best Garden City team of all time."

His emotional statement spoke volumes when you realize that Flatley has guided Garden City to more LIC appearances (14) than any school since the inception of the championships in 1992.

This one resonated more because even Flatley, a man of supreme, yet quiet confidence, knew his team was undersized, inexperienced and playing in a super competitive Nassau Conference II. If there was a year for change, this was it at Garden City.

Graduation decimated the Trojans, and the staff committed to the spread offense to utilize the speed and athleticism of the current roster. Flatley honed a small but tough offensive line, designed another stingy defense and marched through outstanding opponents such as MacArthur, Carey, Wantagh, Elmont and Long Beach to reach the LIC.

The road to the title saw the Trojans erase halftime deficits in four games, including 16-7 to Riverhead in the LIC. After a few halftime adjustments, Garden City went on to win, 29-16. It was some kind of finish.

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It was all about the finish for Paul Longo and the Floyd Colonials, too. An opening season loss to Connetquot reverberated around Long Island that maybe this was the beginning of the end of the traditional playoff power. Not so.

Floyd followed the lead of three-year starting quarterback A.J. Otranto and ripped off nine wins in its next 10 games, including a 31-14 decision over Farmingdale to claim its fifth title in eight years of Class I.

"We had a true leader in A.J.," Longo said. "He led us to two titles with great confidence and skill."

Chaminade coach Stephen Boyd found leadership in quarterback Sean Cerrone and an unyielding defense led by linebackers Chris D'Ambrosio and Brian Dunne. The Flyers ended St. Anthony's three-year reign atop the CHSFL when Zane Wasp drilled a last- minute 33-yard field goal with for a riveting 17-16 win.

The kick was the most significant moment this fall because it snapped an 18-game losing streak to St. Anthony's and gave Chaminade its first title since 1998.

Another moment of comparable note came at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium where Lawrence, which scored a Long Island record 581 points this season, edged Sayville for the Class III crown, 21-20. It wasn't an offensive touchdown that won the game. Ironically, the top-scoring team in history won on Eddie Robinson's 30-yard interception return for a score and Mike Fragner's ensuing point-after kick.

Long Island teams also grabbed four state soccer crowns. The Port Jefferson boys won their second straight Class C crown with a 21-0 record. They've won 39 of 41 games in that span.

The Jericho boys and South Side girls rule the state for the second year in a row. For undefeated South Side, it was the Cyclones' 17th state title. And St. Anthony's claimed the girls CHSAA state championship.

And a most impressive run came in field hockey where Sachem East won 22 straight and captured the school's second consecutive state Class A crown. It earned the Flaming Arrows the honor of being named Long Island's best team, regardless of sport, in the fall -- my BIG 10 champion.

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