It's a rite of autumn. The leaves fall and the Colonials rise.
"My teams focus in the playoffs. In a strange way, they don't really think the season begins until the playoffs," Floyd coach Paul Longo said.
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The Colonials did it again this season, marching through November with relative ease to win their fifth Long Island Class I championship with a 31-14 victory over Farmingdale. Longo has guided Floyd to nine LIC appearances in the past 12 years, including the last two.
"There's a lot of pressure on them to win," Longo said. "The last couple of years, we came in as the fourth seed, but when the playoffs came, we ended up winning all the games."
Forgotten were the opening-week loss to Connetquot and the Week 7 loss to Northport. What will linger was the way Floyd dominated Commack, Sachem North and Sachem East on its way to a fourth straight Suffolk I crown and the way senior quarterback A.J. Otranto capped a magnificent career with his splendid game against Farmingdale.
Otranto, who started 36 games in three years, leading Floyd to the LIC each time, was the key player in his team's rally from a 7-0 first-quarter deficit against the Dalers. Otranto directed two long scoring drives, finishing one with a 14-yard TD pass to Jawan Jenkins and the other with a 49-yard scoring strike to Vantrell Nash to put Floyd ahead to stay at the half, 14-7.
He ran for touchdowns of 12 and 11 yards in the second half, playing with his usual verve and ferocity, churning his legs for extra yardage and pumping his fist every time Floyd made a big play. "I could feel it in my heart. I knew we'd play up to our level," Otranto said. "There was no way I was going to lose my last game as a senior."
Longo always felt confident with the ball in Otranto's hands in November. "He always plays great in the big games," he said. "This year, he was lights out all season. He's a tremendous leader and a tremendous player."
Otranto had plenty of help along the way as Floyd finished 10-2. Running back Chris Faison transferred in from Longwood and was activated in Week 4. He wound up leading the team with 781 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Speedster Diamonte Corley added 601 yards and eight TDs. Otranto's favorite target was Nash, who caught 35 passes for 671 yards and eight touchdowns. He also led the secondary with four interceptions.
The addition of Faison, Longo acknowledged, helped diversify Floyd's offense. "Diamonte was a burner and Faison is a violent runner who seeks out collisions," Longo said. "Our offensive line really improved as the season went on, and that helped the run game. We became a better team with a more balanced attack."
The defense featured a dynamic linebacker corps led by Mark Coles (93 tackles), Miguel Brennin (66) and Billy Kaastra (68).
"Before the season, I expected us to be one of the best teams on Long Island," Longo said. "Then we got tripped up a couple of times."
Then November arrived. Time for the annual Colonial uprising.