Brandon Watson is going to be remembered for his role in the waning moments of yesterday's Nassau II football thriller at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
His mood went from downcast to euphoric in those final minutes as Wantagh edged MacArthur, 14-13 in overtime, in the county semifinal game.
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Watson atoned for his fumble in MacArthur territory in the final minute of regulation with a spectacular 20-yard touchdown run in overtime to tie the score at 13. Andrew Martorella added the extra-point kick for the win.
"After I fumbled in the fourth quarter, I just wanted a chance to make a big play," said Watson, who finished with 96 yards on 19 carries and both Wantagh touchdowns. "My line made some great blocks out front and made it possible."
MacArthur faces Garden City in the final next Sunday at noon at Hofstra.
MacArthur (8-2) forged a 13-7 lead in overtime after Mike Rotondo found fullback Dom Danetti with an 18-yard touchdown pass on a wide receiver option pass. The ensuing extra-point kick was deflected and left the Generals with a six-point lead.
"We blocked an extra point kick against Carey in double overtime last year and won the game," Watson recalled. "I knew when we blocked this one, we were going to win."
It was unclear on video replays which player made the block in the interior of the line as the ball deflected well to the right of the upright.
Then it was left to Watson who ran over over right tackle and broke back across the grain, eluding three tacklers and dashing into the left of the end zone.
The MacArthur offense dictated the tempo of a first half that only last 56 minutes. The Generals gave bruising senior halfback Tom Kelleher 23 touches and he gained 100 yards, scoring on a 1-yard run. The score came on the first possession of the game and capped a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown march that consumed 6:35. Kelleher carried nine times for 58 yards on the drive.
The first-half numbers were striking. MacArthur controlled the ball for 18:08 and ran 35 plays to Wantagh's 11. The Generals' stifling defense led by Mike Marrero and Anthony DeNunzio held Wantagh to 13 total yards.
Wantagh (8-2) opened the second half with a nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Wantagh quarterback Roddy Roche fired a 20-yard pass to Watson for the touchdown and Martorella's kick made it 7-7 with 7:52 left in the third.
From there it was all defense. Wantagh linebackers T.J. Ragusa and Peter Brasile stymied the Generals running game and forced three straight punts.