Connor Vidasolo was ground into the dirt one moment, a puff of dust fully obscuring his white jersey as he went down on the sack. The next moment, he was flying high, unleashing a last-ditch, third-and-long pass that had Floral Park's hopes riding all over it.
Battling a Valley Stream South defender, Rich Hawkins went (way) up, and grasped the football by his fingertips for the 40-yard reception. On the next play, with 1:16 left in the fourth, Vidasolo went up again. Again, he tasted dirt, but this time, he let go of the ball first.
Latest HS sports stories
Under the heavy pressure, Vidasolo tossed an eight-yard pass, hitting Michael Nolan on the slant in the corner of the end zone as the visiting Knights came back to defeat the Falcons, 12-7 in Nassau III.
"Honestly, [Hawkins] was covered, but I had to throw it up," the junior quarterback said. "He had to get it . . . Everyone else was covered on the right side . . . and on the left side I saw there was one coverage and I tried to loft it over his shoulder."
It was a startling reversal for Floral Park (1-2), who at times seemed thoroughly stymied by the Falcons and their time-eating offense. Valley Stream's only score of the game came on their opening drive, a 9:23 grind that was capped by Bryan Providence's pass to Namdi Nwaigwe, who stiff-armed a defender before powering into the end zone for the 15-yard score.
"They could have easily backed down after that," Floral Park coach Michael Spina said. Particularly because the Knights are missing star running back/cornerback Ronnell Jones (knee), who is out for an indeterminate time. Floral Park seemed to stutter without their kickstarter in the first quarter, but came back to life behind workhorse Conor Horan, the first-year player now shouldering the task of filling in for Jones' production.
Horan, who had seven rushes for 39 yards and added 12 tackles (seven solo), took control after Vidasolo threw a pick in the first play of the Knights' first second-quarter drive.
After the Falcons went three-and-out, Horan ran for seven yards, his first contribution to an eight-play drive where he carried four times for 25 yards. Vidasolo's ensuing 39-yard touchdown pass to Brian Moriarty with 1:51 left in the half brought Floral Park to within 7-6.
Floral Park was able to shut it down after that, led by Matt O'Brien, with seven tackles, six assists and one sack.
"I think [after Jones went down] a lot of people thought we were done, but this game proves that we're not," said Horan, a junior. "Someone has got to step it up."
Not that Horan and Jones are interchangeable, Spina said. Jones has breakaway speed, while Horan powers through defenders. "Boy, is he tough," he said. "He's a horse. He runs over people., he doesn't run around them."
Vidasolo, who finished 5-for-7 with 124 yards, agreed. Losing Jones hurt, he said, "and he's a great player and we'd love to have him back."
"But I think we're proving everyone wrong," he said. "We're not a one-man team."