Running back Billy Andrle took a pitch from quarterback Chris Buschi, hit the right edge and trotted untouched into the end zone to give East Meadow the lead with 48 seconds left.
But in a close, hard-fought game against longtime rival Baldwin, the celebration had to be put on hold. Nothing had been determined yet.
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Enter Rob Bergmann. He dropped back on defense into the end zone and snagged an interception as time expired to secure a 9-7 win for East Meadow Saturday in Nassau I football.
"When we picked it off, the sideline exploded and they charged the field," said East Meadow coach Vinny Mascia, whose team improved to 4-1. "They were so excited."
Some of that enthusiasm had been sapped just a few minutes before when the Bruins (3-2) took the lead.
Kyle Bettex's 29-yard field goal had given East Meadow a 3-0 lead with eight seconds left in the first half. East Meadow's defense had been so dominant that it held Baldwin off the scoreboard even after a first-quarter turnover gave the Bruins possession at the Jets' 5-yard line. But that defense finally cracked in the fourth quarter.
Jovaun Tomlinson's 3-yard touchdown run put Baldwin up 7-3 with 2:44 left. During the drive, the Bruins converted a third-and-20 when Tyler Warner hit Travis Hylton on a seam route.
"The kids were hanging their heads a little bit after that," Mascia said. "But [Bergmann] returned the kickoff to the 50, and that was encouraging."
Andrle ran for 108 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries to lead East Meadow. At inside linebacker, he had eight tackles and a sack. Buschi added 81 yards on 18 rushes. Nick Conti had a sack and defensive end Chris Green made eight tackles.
"It's a huge win," Mascia said. "These are two evenly matched teams and we're fighting for third place. We put ourselves in good position with this win."