Mike Gentile's 13 tackles, fumble recovery, help lead Connetquot
The cut on the bridge of his nose was bleeding long after the game had ended. And Mike Gentile's forearms were bruis- ed and battered. If forearms could scream, well, they would be screaming.
Gentile, the rugged middle linebacker at 5-feet-6, played like a giant Saturday as Connetquot held off Longwood, 22-14, on Homecoming day before more than 2,200 fans in Bohemia.
Gentile led a defense that swarmed one of Long Island's top halfbacks, Isaiah White, and slowed the Lions' ground game to a crawl. Both Longwood touchdowns came by the pass.
Gentile finished with 13 tackles, including three for a loss and also had a key fumble recovery at the Connetquot 4-yard line with 1:18 left in the game.
"Look at our middle linebackers and we're all five-foot-nothing and it doesn't matter," Gentile said. "That's who we are. And we play as a unit."
Gentile, Chris Beal and Mike Grimaldi were all over the Longwood running game. Each of them knifed their way into the Lions backfield for big stops.
"We wanted them to come out and set the tone," Connetquot defensive coordinator Mike Konsevitch said. "And our defense runs to the ball well and what we lack in size we make up in ferocity."
Connetquot (5-1) forced five turnovers. The first came on the opening kickoff when Jack Richardson stripped the ball carrier and Sean McKean recovered at the Lions 17.
Four plays later, Marcus Gutierrez scored the first of his three TDs on a 3-yard run. Peter McKasty added the extra-point kick and the T-Birds led 7-0.
"We can't turn the ball over against a good team and expect to win," Longwood coach Aiden Smith said. "We turned it over on the opening kickoff and twice on their goal line."
Gutierrez added to the T-Birds lead when he scored on a 2-yard run up the middle with 1:22 left in the first quarter. Quarterback Rick Hahn threw the two-point conversion pass to Chris Seeback for the 15-0 lead.
"I follow my big brother Josh [Gutierrez] right to the end zone," said Gutierrez, who finished with 79 yards on 22 carries. "The offensive line has been the key."
Longwood (2-4) cut the deficit just before the half. The Lions drove to the Connetquot 16 and on fourth down and goal a pass interference penalty in the end zone moved the ball to the 8.
Quarterback Andrew McKeon hit Serenity Bishop with an 8-yard scoring strike on the next play with 22 seconds left. Chris Harders added the kick to make it 15-7 at the half.
Connetquot extended the lead early in the third quarter as Gutierrez capped a nine-play, 56-yard drive with a 4-yard scoring run for a 22-7 lead.
"We were moving them off the ball," T-Birds guard Sean Moore said. "It was very physical up front."
Longwood answered with a 12-play, 82-yard drive punctuated by a McKeon to Darrell Jones 20-yard scoring pass to make it 22-14 with 8:42 left in the game.
Longwood's defense forced three punts in the final 5:58. But the T-Birds' defense was just as good. Moore, who had 11 tackles and a fumble recovery, forced a fumble that was recovered by McKean.
On the Lions next possession, McKean stripped White at the T-Birds 4 and Gentile recovered. "We were hitting their backs low and flying to the ball," Gentile said. "Once our guys were on them, we were trying to strip them."
Longwood's final gasp came after a shanked punt went out of play at the T-Birds 16 with 24 seconds left. McKeon lofted his pass for Jones in the back of the end zone but a leaping Hahn intercepted to seal the win.
"Great game to win," Gentile said. "We battled."
It showed all over him.