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Port Jeff’s Elijah Riley puts exclamation point on Army’s late win

Newfield grad picks off a lateral and scores on the final play of the game, soon after the Knights scored a TD and the go-ahead two-point conversion with 18 seconds left.

Newfield's Elijah Riley scores when he picked off

Newfield's Elijah Riley scores when he picked off a lateral on the final play of the game to clinch Army's 42-35 victory over San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl on Satukrday, Dec. 23, 2017, in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo Credit: AP / George Walker

Port Jefferson’s Elijah Riley intercepted a lateral and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown as time expired to seal Army’s 42-35 win over San Diego State on Saturday in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas.

Army took a 36-35 lead when Darnell Woolfork scored on a 1-yard run and Kell Walker added the two-point conversion run with 18 seconds left.

On the ensuing kickoff, Riley, a sophomore who had been put on special teams for the final kickoff, made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Aztecs’ 40-yard line.

After the Aztecs lost 10 yards, they took their last snap at the 30. “There were seven seconds left when the last play started,” Riley said. “They started to lateral the ball and the player was settling to throw the ball across the field. There was no one behind me, so I sat on the lateral and intercepted the ball.”

As Riley, who earned the 2015 Hansen Award winner as Suffolk’s top high school player, raced toward the end zone, he looked at the scoreboard.

“I looked up at the clock and saw there was no time left, so I took it to the house,” he said. “When I turned around, I got mobbed and couldn’t breathe. It was awesome.”

It was the first college TD for the 6-foot, 205-pounder from Newfield High School.

Riley said of his tackle on the kickoff moments earlier: “They had a kickoff return for a touchdown and Coach brought a few defensive backs out onto special teams. I had a big lineman in front of me and just avoided him to make a shoelace tackle near midfield.’’

Rashaad Penny ran for 221 yards and four touchdowns for San Diego State (10-3). His fourth TD run gave the Aztecs a 35-28 lead with 5:47 to play before Army (10-3) drove 72 yards to take the lead.

It was Penny’s fifth straight game of at least 200 yards. His touchdowns came on runs of 81, 31, 49 and 4 yards. Juwan Washington scored the Aztecs’ other TD on a 78-yard kickoff return.

Army dominated time of possession with its option offense, with 91 plays to the Aztecs’ 30, and held the ball for 46:00 to San Diego State’s 13:53.

Riley finished his Newfield career in similar fashion. Helped by his three touchdowns, Newfield led MacArthur 41-33 with 59 seconds left in the 2015 Long Island Class II championship game. In the final minute, MacArthur attempted an onside kick that Riley caught on one hop. He burst through the kickoff team and returned the ball toward the Generals’ end zone for what appeared to be his fourth touchdown. Instead, Riley, in a show of respect, stopped at the MacArthur 6-yard line and knelt with 53 seconds left.With AP

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