Steven Casali's a two-way star for Sachem East

Sachem East's Steven Casali runs the ball for Sachem East's Steven Casali runs the ball for a touchdown during the second quarter against Longwood. (Oct. 5, 2012) Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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Steven Casali put forth the kind of herculean effort late Friday night that they'll talk about for a long time. Casali brought me back to the days when it was a common that the great ones went both ways, starring on offense and defense.

The label throwback is often used to describe a player who can take over a game with the physicality that stands out and leaves the crowd in awe. This is Sachem East's Steven Casali.

He reminded us what the term workhorse means when he rushed for a career high 289 yards on 25 carries and three scores in a 25-17 win over Longwood in Suffolk's Division I. His mangled uniform and bruised forearms were testament to his physical play.

Casali swatted away defenders and delivered the hit every time he touched the ball. His three touchdown runs were a combination of power, breakaway speed and the will to let no one stand in his way. He made defenders pay by lowering his shoulder, squaring them up and running over them. He made them pay if they dared tackle him.

He essentially put his team on his back and refused to allow Longwood take the game away from the Flaming Arrows.

His 74-yard touchdown jaunt cut a 10-point deficit to 4 and ignited a dormant Sachem East offense and sent them to the halftime pep talk with some fire. On his first carry after halftime he rumbled for 50 yards and the lead.

And on defense he could be seen scraping behind the line and flying through gaps to make bone crushing hits on runners. He caused three fumbles, recovering one of them. He was in on 14 tackles and Longwood must have felt like there were three of him on defense. He was everywhere.

When the fight was over, Casali tipped his cap to Longwood and talked about how great the Lions played in defeat -- a humble postscript for a kid with great character and a heck of a stiff arm.

He was so good, I went home to watch him again on the TV replay.

There were others that played both sides of the ball and had terrific weekends. Commack's John Donovan ran for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the first half and made 10 tackles in the Cougars' 44-12 win over Central Islip. East Meadow's Billy Andrle ran for 108 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown with 48 seconds left in a 9-7 win over Baldwin. Andrle also had eight tackles and a sack from his inside linebacker position to stymie the Baldwin offense.

And how about Uniondale's William Stanback, whose extraordinary effort helped the Knights to their second win of the season. Stanback rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns. And he took an interception 90 yards for another score in the Knights' 35-28 win over Freeport.

For the first time since 1976 and only the second time ever, Mercy has started the season at 5-0. Senior halfback Reggie Archer carried 18 times for 178 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-7 win over Port Jefferson. The Monarchs are one of the season's pleasant surprises. They were seeded 12th in the preseason in Suffolk Division IV, the lowest seed to remain unbeaten through five weeks since 1992 when the power rankings were introduced in Suffolk.

And if we're recognizing perfection, how about the 5-0 start for East Islip? The Redmen were seeded ninth in Suffolk Division II and after yesterday's 24-14 win over top-seeded Riverhead they look every bit the part of an eventual divisional champion.

Some final thoughts on the two-point conversion debate. Should coaches go for two and the win in the final moments of a game or opt for the kick and the tie that forces overtime?

Well, Bethpage and Kings Park both had the chance to pull out last- minute victories and opted to go for the win with a two-point conversion. They both lost.

There have been five last minute decisions to go for the two and the win this year. The record; one win and four losses. We'll continue to keep track. And yes, I'd still go for it.

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