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Stephen Haynes

Stephen Haynes has worked at Newsday since 2007 when he started as a summer intern. He began working as a high school reporter in December of that year and has covered everything from fencing to football.

Brian Haeffner's 205 yards, three TDs lead Garden City over Westbury

Garden City's Christian Coppola corrals a squib kick
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Garden City's Christian Coppola corrals a squib kick during the start of the the third quarter of a Nassau II varsity football game versus Westbury on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014.(Credit: James Escher)

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What a runner!

He turned heads -- in the stands and on the field -- zipping downfield to the amazement of anyone not attempting to tackle him. He repeatedly cut left, cut right and cut back, essentially tap dancing through the defense for one great gallop after another.

We are, of course, talking about Brian Haeffner.

"With an explosive back like that, all we have to do is get to the right people," Trojans left tackle Liam Byrnes said. "Make a block and he's gone."

Garden City's tailback wasn't the big name on the backfield marquee entering this Nassau II contest. But that stuff only matters until Saturday.

Haeffner rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Trojans to a 31-0 victory over Westbury Saturday. And the 165-pound junior needed only 12 carries to amass that total, darting for scoring runs of 86, 54 and 21 yards.

Tim Schmelzinger completed 7 of 13 passes for 96 yards, a TD and an interception, and added 105 yards rushing for Garden City (3-0). Defensive back Matt Borges had two interceptions.

"I give all the credit to the line and everyone blocking downfield," Haeffner said. "They made it easy with the holes they opened up."

Without question, the offensive line and fullback James Sullivan are due praise. But Haeffner's vision and quickness turned good runs into spectacular ones.

Exhibit A: Haeffner made moot a mistake-filled first quarter, putting the Trojans on the board with 3:16 left in the period. He shot around left tackle, sidestepped a defender to break outside and outran the pursuit up the sideline for the 86-yarder.

Exhibit B: On a simple counter off right guard, Haeffner cut outside to create space, juked two defenders and then high-stepped and tiptoed attempted ankle tackles before shaking loose for 54 yards.

"He's so shifty, you never know what he'll do," Byrnes said. "We don't know if he's going to cut back or not, so it makes all of us stay alert."

The same could be said, from a defensive standpoint, regarding Westbury's Shalike Merchant. As impressive as their offense, so was the Trojans' containment of Merchant, a running back who erupted for 357 yards last week and had the Green Dragons (2-1) averaging 44 points in the first two games. Saturday Merchant carried 25 times for 156 yards with 54 coming on the last drive.

"He's very talented, so we had to know where he was at all times," said Trojans coach Tom Flatley, who turned 75. "He cuts back really well, but we were able to get there in time to keep him from breaking anything long. That was big."

Garden City alternated defensive fronts, switching between a 4-3 and "50" with five linemen. They also snagged two red-zone interceptions, including Chris Larkin's diving pick at the 1 in the fourth quarter.

"When you've got a guy who can do special things," Borges said, "that's someone everyone has to keep an eye on."

He was talking about Merchant. But that statement now also applies to Haeffner.

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Carey QB Mike Catanese making name for himself

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Who better to deliver this message to Mike Catanese than Anthony Catapano?

"Don't worry about replacing Ray," Catapano has told his new quarterback. "Just be yourself and you'll be awesome."

Wise words from a decent source. Catapano, an offensive lineman, is the younger brother of Ray Catapano, the former Carey quarterback who posted eye-popping numbers and nabbed a Thorp Award while leading the Seahawks to a Long Island title last season. Yeah. Catanese is replacing that guy.

"I don't feel too much pressure," Catanese said. "Teammates and coaches have told me to just do my own thing."

In being himself Saturday, the junior looked an awful lot like that guy.

Catanese was flawless, completing all nine of his passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns as Carey beat host Wantagh, 40-7, in Nassau II football. The Seahawks graduated several skill-position players but thus far have appeared no less skilled than before.

Nick Spillane rushed for 43 yards and score, and had a touchdown reception. Conor Colasurdo, who ran for a TD, also had a sack and a fumble recovery for Carey (2-0). Thomas Gallant had two sacks. "New quarterback and all," Catapano said, "we've picked up right where we left off."

And for Catanese, it has been less about whom he follows than those he stands behind. Left tackle Jorge Cerquera. Left guard Joe Randazzo. Center Rob Kelly. Right guard Gabe Alejo. Right tackle Anthony Catapano.

Carey returned four of its five starters on the offensive line -- Randazzo being the newcomer -- and this unit, with its talent and established cohesiveness, has been dominant.

"When you're able to sit back there and read the defense, it's great," Catanese said. "When you've got that and great receivers getting open, it's easy."

Even more so when the defense immediately offers good field position. Defensive lineman Casey Kloepfer intercepted a Wantagh screen pass on the first play from scrimmage, setting his offense up at the 25. Spillane cashed in four plays later, juking and spinning his way to a 15-yard TD. Colasurdo's 3-yard TD run put Carey up 14-0 with 1:12 left in the first quarter.

That score was set up by Catanese's 34-yard completion to Jake Safuto on a skinny post. Showing savvy that belies his experience, the quarterback successfully looked off the safeties to free Safuto downfield. "I picked up some of the [nuances] watching Ray," Catanese said.

He later hit Spillane for a 26-yard TD on a seam route that made it 27-0 before halftime, and his 4-yard flare to Anthony Milan pushed the lead to 40-0 with 7:57 in the third, before Carey began substituting.

Mike DeLeo had a rushing TD, as did Brett Campos, whose 1-yard plunge was preceded by his 47-yard catch. Wantagh (1-1) was held scoreless until late in the third, when Vinny Vasheo broke runs of 35 and 22 yards, setting up Bruno Surace's 1-yard TD run.

"We're not shocked," Colasurdo said of Catanese. "He showed this over the summer and it's carried over. We expected him to be great."

Never mind "that guy." He's beginning to look like the guy.

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