Picks by Blake, Freeman propel Nassau CC to rout of ASA
Nassau Community College's football program has an extraordinary legacy, so it took an exceptional achievement to stand out in a sport that started at the school in 1968. Players inherit the tradition, but they have to earn their own place in program history.
How about the most regular-season victories? How about a perfect regular season? How about both?
That is exactly what sixth-ranked Nassau accomplished at home Saturday as it defeated No. 17 ASA, 47-7, to finish 11-0 under first-year coach and former player Jermaine Miles.
"That's a special season. It was never done before,'' linebacker Siriki Diabate said. "We're the first team to ever go 11-0. We want the national championship. We challenge anybody. We feel like we can beat anybody.''
Nassau will field offers for an NJCAA postseason bowl game.
It is the sixth time Nassau football has had an undefeated regular season. The Lions' all-time record is 346-86. They've never had a losing season.
The celebration started early in the third quarter after Justin Blake returned an interception 103 yards to give Nassau a 24-7 lead. ASA, short for Advanced Software Analysis, came in with formidable credentials. The Brooklyn school was 7-2 and led the Northeast Football Conference defensively, holding opponents to 8.6 points a game. Nassau was second at 11.4.
But Nassau, the conference leader in points, took a 17-7 lead in the first half. The key moment came when Malachi Freeman returned an interception 49 yards - his seventh this season - and Nassau led by 10 with 6:34 left before halftime.
"That's what I do,'' Freeman said of his interception. "This is the best feeling ever. I've never had an undefeated feeling."
Nassau had five interceptions in the game, two by Blake.
Freeman's pick came moments after Nassau snapped a 7-7 tie on Taurean Durham's 50-yard field goal. It was 10 yards short of the school record set by Al Vitiello in 1970. Durham, a Uniondale graduate, added a 36-yarder later in the game.
Nassau scored the first touchdown of the game on quarterback Francis Drummond's 8-yard bootleg. Durham kicked the extra point.
ASA tied it when Travis Eakin found wide receiver Jonathon Syms wide open for a 32-yard scoring pass.
"You have fun here," Drummond said. "The tradition follows.''
Miles is a big part of that tradition, having played on the 1993 team that went 10-0 in the regular season and was ranked second in the nation. He said, "As a player, you got so many different emotions; as a coach, you have so many different emotions that flow. If I was to sum it up in one word: excitement.''
As for the bowl game, Miles said numerous possibilities exist. There is no playoff system, but a national championship usually is claimed by the highest-ranked team left after all the postseason games. Butler (Kan.) was No. 1 going into the weekend.
"There's still a lot of ifs right now,'' Miles said. "But we just solved one of the ifs.''