Like the predatory fish they are named for, the Sharks of Eastport-South Manor lurked near their target for most of the game before striking with ferocity.
Austin Macchi rolled to his right, found Jaggar Chaisty inside the 5, and the wide receiver dragged tacklers into the end zone to give visiting ESM a dramatic 22-18 victory over Hauppauge in an exciting Suffolk III game Friday night that left both teams at 3-1.
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"What an awesome feeling!" said Macchi, who helped engineer an overtime victory over Sayville last week.
Hauppauge had taken an 18-15 lead in the final minute of the third quarter when Austin Munro scored from the 7 to cap a nine-play, 78-yard drive.
The Eagles then forced a punt and had a chance to continue unbeaten if it could have run out the clock. But the ESM defense, led by linebacker Mike Bianco (15 tackles, three for losses) bent by allowing two first downs, but didn't break and forced a punt.
That gave the Sharks possession with 3:33 left at their own 26. After Cole Zeller was stopped for a 1-yard loss on first down, Macchi handled the ball on the next seven plays. He ran for 18 yards on three carries, completed a 10-yard pass to Chaisty for a first down, misfired on two passes and ran a quarterback draw for 4 yards. That brought up fourth-and-6 at the Hauppauge 43 with 1:25 left.
This time, Macchi simply handed off to Zeller, who ran for 8 yards and a huge first down that kept the drive and the Sharks' hopes alive.
"Cole looked at my eyes and said he could run for it," Macchi said.
"I told the coaches that I was a senior and I wanted to be a leader," said Zeller, who gained 103 yards on 23 carries, with a first-half touchdown run of 7 yards. "I wanted to put the team on my back and I guaranteed a first down."
He delivered, but ESM still had to score a touchdown to win it. On second-and-1 from the 16, Macchi and Chaisty made the game-winning connection. "We ran a hitch. I was patient with the ball and the defense tipped it," Macchi said of his pass, which Chaisty caught, anyway.
"Coach wanted me to go out of bounds but I saw an opening and I cut to the end zone," Chaisty said.
After their second week of clamping their jaws onto a victory late, ESM is getting used to it. "We don't want to fall behind," Bianco said, "but at least we know that we can come back. We make big plays under pressure."
As an exuberant but drained coach Paul Mastronardi said, "These kids are finally learning how to win."