You’re MacArthur football coach Bobby Fehrenbach and your team has a big statement game against Nassau II rival Long Beach. You have a few options early on.
1. Pitch the ball to Tom Kelleher, and watch as he cruises around left end for big gain. 2. Hand the ball off to Kelleher, and watch as he powers through the middle, breaking a tackle on the way into the end zone. Or 3. Call for the swing pass to Kelleher, and watch as he dekes a defender, turns the corner, and takes off for a first down.
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The brawny running back assembled a highlight reel in MacArthur’s 31-7 win Friday night, running the ball 27 times for 176 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters of play. Kelleher proved nearly unstoppable, even when there was little doubt as to who was getting the ball.
Behind him and around him, MacArthur (6-1) — notably quarterback Gerard Cunningham and lineman Na’im Al-Qaadir on defense — helped secure second place in the conference with only one more week between the Generals and the playoffs.
With 9:41 left in the first quarter, Kelleher squirmed through the left side of the scrum and broke an ankle tackle before scampering in for the 9-yard touchdown. That score capped a five-play, all-Kelleher drive on which he racked up 63 yards, including a pace-setting 43-yard charge on the first play from scrimmage.
Kelleher rushed on all but three offensive plays in the first quarter, and the only ones for positive yardage. When he wasn’t putting on a show, a key interception by Dylan Pearce and big tackles by Al-Qaadir stymied the Marines, who were held to fewer than 30 yards of offense in the first half.
MacArthur, which dominated throughout, nonetheless struggled to cash in early on, and had to settle for Pat Newins’ 33-yard field goal and a 10-point lead at the end of the first. Cunningham’s 4-yard keeper with a minute left in the half — a play where he dropped back, rolled right, and cut back through a hole off right tackle and into the end zone — was was good for the 17-point halftime lead.
Cunningham hit Brendan Smith with a 35-yard scoring pass with 4:45 left in the third, but the Generals were hungry for a little more. They got it in the form of a 22-yard rushing TD with time expiring in the third. By Kelleher, naturally.