A guy named Lombardi fired up a football team.
No, not Vince Lombardi, the legendary former coach and motivator of the Green Bay Packers. Mike Lombardi, the current tailback and captain of the West Islip Lions.
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"He's a very subdued, quiet kid," West Islip coach Steve Mileti said. "But when he talks, people listen. With the last name Lombardi, he was born to be one of those leaders. But his actions speak even louder."
Well, his actions, and those of his West Islip teammates, spoke volumes Saturday as the Lions upset Riverhead, 19-8, in Suffolk II.
"The effort was unbelievable," Lombardi said. "We got the season started off right."
The other Lombardi, the one who the Super Bowl trophy is named after, once said, "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up."
Well, West Islip got knocked down quite a bit last season, losing many close games and finishing 1-7. Now the Lions are proving that they are getting back up.
With Riverhead on the West Islip 35-yard line, Matthew Ferrugiari intercepted a slant pass and returned it 30 yards. On the next play, Lombardi found a hole and ran 34 yards for the touchdown to give West Islip a 9-0 lead.
"You can't tackle him with one guy," West Islip quarterback Conor Smith said, "and he proved it today."
On third-and-10, quarterback Conor Smith noticed that a safety had dropped down to cover a slot receiver, leaving an outside linebacker in single coverage against wide receiver James McCorvey. McCorvey got a great jump off the line and caught a perfect pass over the top of the defense from Smith for a 33-yard touchdown that increased the lead to 16-0 with just over a minute remaining in the half.
"Last year we had too many close games," McCorvery said of establishing an early lead. "We didn't want to be the almost team any more."
West Islip got the ball back at the Riverhead 30-yard line with 6.6 seconds left in the second quart. Smith scrambled for a 24-yard gain and was tackled out of bounds with just 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Kevin DiCapua then hit a 23-yard field goal to send the Lions into the break with a 19-0 lead.
"It feels great to finally close the game," Smith said. "Last year we were competitive in all of our games and we couldn't find a way to finish them. To get this done in our house, it gives us a lot of confidence going into next week."
Sharron Trent connected with a leaping Tommy Powers for a 21-yard touchdown, and Blake Carrara caught the two-point conversion with 3:35 remaining to pull Riverhead within 19-8. But Sean O'Gara recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the victory.
Sean Burke made 11 tackles and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Lombardi. Ferrugiari made nine tackles as the West Islip defense allowed just 149 total yards.
"Our game plan was perfect," Ferrugiari said. "This gives us tons of confidence. We have to keep rolling."
Rolling through defenders all game was Lombardi, who rushed for 72 yards on eight carries, as West Islip matched its win total from all of last season.
"We can't be satisfied with this win," he said. "We have to keep pushing."
Sounds like the other Lombardi.