In some ways, Anthony Carchietta is the wild card for Syosset. He began his career as a running back and now is a wide receiver. He's also a defensive back who covers receivers and occasionally blitzes the quarterback.
Saturday, Carchietta was a wildcat, too.
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On a second-down play, Carchietta took a direct snap and burrowed forward for a 6-yard touchdown that provided the winning points in No. 4 Syosset's dramatic 17-14 victory over visiting No. 5 Freeport in a Nassau I quarterfinal game.
Syosset, like Freeport, is 6-3, and will play No. 1 Farmingdale on Saturday in a semifinal game at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
"We were going belly-4. I just followed my blockers right into the end zone," Carchietta said of the play call. It was the fifth wildcat carry for the gritty 5-9, 145-pounder, who was a dynamo on defense as well.
Carchietta and linebacker E.J. Aronson had eight tackles each to lead a swarming defense. Carchietta's jarring hit sent Freeport freshman quarterback Rashad Tucker to the bench for the final few minutes of the first half.
"We put that play in just this week," Syosset quarterback Hunter Gross said of the wildcat set. Gross had carried four consecutive times for 14 yards prior to the Carchietta call and completed a huge pass on fourth-and-2 to keep the drive alive. He rifled a bullet to Ian Berg on a quick slant, but the pass was tipped by Red Devils linebacker Myles-Lawrence Eason. However, the ball deflected to Berg, who made a diving catch.
"I'd rather be lucky than good," cracked Gross, who said he suffered a dislocated shoulder against Farmingdale on Sept. 27 and missed four weeks, returning to action last week. "Their kid made a great play."
Syosset's road at Hofstra wasn't fully paved until the Braves made a defensive stand against the elusive Tucker, who Freeport coach Russ Cellan said, "is the first freshman to take a snap for me in 30 years of coaching."
Season-long starter Davelle Hooks suffered a broken hand last week, according to Cellan. Tucker did an admirable job after returning to action in the second half. He gave the Red Devils a 14-7 lead with a touchdown on a 1-yard sneak and made three daring scrambles in the final minute, alertly stepping out of bounds each time to stop the clock.
On a drive that began on the Freeport 25, Tucker raced 19 yards to the Syosset 44 and scooted eight yards to the Syosset 26. He then threw two passes to the end zone that were well-defended by Stephen Hutchingson. On fourth-and-3, Tucker avoided a sack and zig-zagged 17 yards to the 9, with two seconds left.
Cellan decided to go for the victory rather than a possible game-tying field goal at that point. "We hadn't kicked a field goal all year and I felt that would give us the best shot" he said.
That shot was Tucker on a rollout pass, but Shawnee Barrett was well-covered by Travis Hammer, who earlier had nailed a 41-yard field goal.
"We had to keep calm. It was extremely challenging because their quarterback kept scrambling," Carchietta said. "We had to stay with our receivers."
When Tucker's final pass fell incomplete, Gross said he "just jumped into the air and hugged number 60, Matt Citron."
For Syosset, it was time to go wild.