Augie Contressa had just turned the corner and tried to catch the edge and there was Connetquot's Jack Spataro. The defensive back came up hard and made the initial hit as Contressa battled for yards after contact.
"I hit him and punched at the ball to try and strip it," Spataro said. "We know he always fights for extra yardage and never gives up. And we worked on getting the ball out and stopping him all week."
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Spataro successfully knocked the ball from Contressa's grasp and recovered the fumble at the Commack 32 with 4:55 left and the Thunderbirds trailing by a point.InteractiveHard Knocks: Helmets and concussions in LI footballSee alsoHard Knocks: Helmets and concussions in LI football See alsoSearch your school's helmet inventory
"I was just trying to bounce it to the outside and then a couple guys were on me and I was trying to push them off," Contressa said. "There were too many guys on me, then they stripped it. I don't really like going down."
Six plays later, Jack Richardson burst up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown and Connetquot came back for a 12-7 victory over host Commack Saturday in a Suffolk Division I football game. The decision left both teams with 3-2 records.
"It was a defensive type of game," said defensive back Willie Gonzalez, who had five tackles and two pass breakups. "We needed to rebound from last week's loss to Floyd. This was a big win and could be the turning point in our season."
Contressa rushed for 154 yards on 18 carries, including a 41-yard touchdown run that gave the Cougars a 7-0 third quarter lead.
The teams battled through a scoreless first half. Connetquot managed 97 yards on 33 plays and Commack could only muster 61 yards on 18 plays.
The Cougars threatened to score on their first possession of the game. They marched 70 yards to the T-Birds doorstep before quarterback CJ Trenkle was stripped by Jake Piccininni and the ball was recovered by Shane Overbaugh. "We made the big defensive plays," Connetquot defensive coordinator Mike Konsevitch said. "Our guys came to play. We had a lot of pressure all game and forced some mistakes."
Contressa's burst over right tackle and sprint untouched to the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown run was the lone blemish for a T-Birds defense which recorded seven sacks, and forced four turnovers. Defensive tackle Luciano DeRenzo was all over Trenkle and finished with two sacks and three tackles for a loss. "We were getting so much pressure and they couldn't throw," DeRenzo said.
The Connetquot offense answered the first score immediately as the T-Birds went on a seven-play, 49-yard drive capped by a Jack Cassidy quarterback sneak. The extra point kick went wide left and with 3:18 left in the third quarter the T-Birds trailed 7-6.
"We were in striking distance at that point and we just needed to contain Contressa and not let him break a big one," Konsevitch said. "He's dangerous, one of Long Island's best players. Our guys played a great game."