For the first time in more than a month, Roosevelt gave up a point. For the first time this season, Roosevelt trailed in a game. But, most importantly, for the 11th time this season, Roosevelt emerged victorious.
And just like in their Week 3 meeting, points were at a premium between two premium teams. The No. 1 Rough Riders made a rare touchdown pass hold up to outlast No. 3 Seaford, 6-3, last night at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium and win the Nassau IV championship for the second consecutive season.
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Roosevelt (11-0), which gave coach Joe Vito his 150th career victory, will play for the Long Island Class IV championship next Friday at noon at Hofstra. Seaford, which lost to Roosevelt, 7-0, in the regular season, finished 8-3.
"Two great defenses and two warrior teams," Vito said. "We were never behind all season but they were behind at halftime. What did they do? They played Roosevelt football."
The Vikings grabbed a 3-0 lead on Matt Murphy's 32-yard field goal with 6:32 left in the second quarter and took that lead into halftime, as Roosevelt's offense went a little flat after Johnnie Akins suffered a foot injury in the first quarter he and coach Vito later called "turf toe." Akins missed five plays before getting re-taped.
The halftime rest did him good as Akins gained 99 of his 159 yards after the break, including five carries on the first drive of the third quarter. The Rough Riders got an emotional lift when Raymond Jones flattened James O'Hagan on a clean block during a run by quarterback Justin Terry on a broken play. O'Hagan only missed one play and wound up making six tackles as the Vikings' defense stopped Roosevelt on four crucial fourth-and-short plays ending potential scoring drives.
But on this drive, Roosevelt, which had not completed a single pass in last week's semifinal victory over Valley Stream North, traveled by air to the end zone. Terry hit Denzel Barnes on a 35-yard scoring strike with 9:34 left in the third quarter for the lead and the game's only touchdown.
"Once in a while, I have to get out of my run mode," Vito said with a big grin.
There wasn't much grinning on the field. It was a tense, gritty, defensive struggle. Seaford managed only 133 yards of offense while Roosevelt managed a modest -- for them -- 256 yards. The game nearly was tied late in the fourth quarter. But Murphy's 27-yard field goal drifted wide right with 2:08 left.
Still, Seaford dug in and did not allow Roosevelt to run out the clock, forcing a punt. The Vikings got the ball back on their own 48 with 1:15 left. Kyle Kolodinsky completed a 9-yard pass to Bobby Buell (four receptions, 10.5 tackles) and immediately spiked the ball. On third-and-1 at the Roosevelt 43, he launched a deep ball that was picked off by Barnes and returned 63 yards, icing the game.
On toughing it out and getting the milestone victory for his coach, Akins said, "I was determined to get back on the field and finish for my team and my coach. It was a fight to the finish. But I love it!"