It was no surprise that the designed play was for MacArthur running back Tom Kelleher on third-and-7 at the Garden City 17 with 1:35 left and the score tied. It was also no surprise that Garden City covered the flat and took away the intended pass.
MacArthur quarterback Gerard Cunningham bootlegged to his right, saw that the initial read was covered and went to his second read. Cunningham found tight end Dom Danetti wide open in the end zone for a 17-yard TD and Pat Newins kicked the extra point with 1:29 left to give MacArthur a 24-17 win over host Garden City Saturday in Nassau II football. MacArthur (7-1) defeated Garden City (7-1) for the first time since 2002.
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"We were trying to get Tom in the flat," Cunningham said. "I really haven't hit the drag this year. Usually, it's the fullback that's open. I saw Dom dragging across and hit him in the end zone."
"I was a little bit nervous," Danetti said. "I wasn't expecting it. As soon as the ball was thrown to me, I was thinking don't drop it."
It was just the second reception of the game for Danetti and his first TD of the season. Was MacArthur coach Bob Fehrenbach surprised Danetti was so open?
"Yes, because they're a very disciplined team, and no, because we didn't do anything with him the whole game," he said. "Why should they cover someone who hasn't been a factor? The quarterback made the right read and put the ball on the money and Dom made a great catch."
Quarterback Brett Stewart threw a Hail Mary pass that Kelleher batted down at the MacArthur 15 to seal the win with 15 seconds left.
Kelleher rushed for 121 yards on 34 carries and scored two first-half rushing TDs to give MacArthur a 14-7 lead. Stewart connected with Justin Guterding for a 52-yard TD pass with 5:28 left in the third to tie the score at 17 for Garden City.
After a failed fake punt by MacArthur that gave GC the ball at its own 41, Kelleher intercepted to stop the drive early in the fourth quarter.
"For a guy that touches the ball and is targeted even on passes, 85-90 percent of the time and for him to get hit by more than one kid and to still go out there and play defense is a tremendous job," Fehrenbach said. "That's what big guys do in big games."
The MacArthur defense made some critical stops. Garden City had first-and-goal at the 6-yard line but couldn't score as Na'im Al-Qaddir had a tackle for a loss on fourth down early in the second quarter. On the next drive, the Trojans had first-and-goal from the 3 and came away with a field goal.
Al-Qaddir and Paul Giuliano each had a sack and Joey Tangredi, Nick Cuciti and Anthony DeNunzio also stood out for the MacArthur defense.
Kelleher said: "The reason we won was because of the defense."