It was the biggest play of the year for Hicksville.
Maybe the biggest play in 31 years.
Still riding high from their first invitation to the playoffs since their
inception in 1970, the Comets' confidence was even higher because they were
able to hang with the big, bad, undefeated No.1 seed. Hicksville's defense had
stood toe-to-toe against Freeport, and coach Barney Bell'Aquilla was betting it
could do it one more time.
With Freeport nursing a 6-0 lead and facing third-and-3 at the Hicksville
25-yard line with time winding down, the Comets needed to make a stop and get
the ball back. But Freeport's Travis Jinks spoiled all the good feelings on the
Hicksville side by breaking a run for 18 yards and breaking the heart of every
Comet over the past three decades.
The Red Devils were able to run out the last 1:27 and seal their 6-0
victory in a Nassau Conference I football semifinal last night in front of 800
fans at Hofstra Stadium. Freeport advances to play Farmingdale in a 4:30 p.m.
conference final Saturday at Hofstra.
The Comets might have been happy to be there, but they also were hungry for
a win and stuck around to the very end in search of table scraps from the
vaunted Freeport defense.
"It was a zone play, and the down before Travis had taken the ball outside
and we saw a seam on the inside," Freeport's Russ Cellan said of the first-down
run. "During the timeout we told him if the same thing happens again, get in
Fourth-seeded Hicksville (6-2-1) faced a difficult decision moments
earlier. On fourth-and-2 at its 16 and 2:46 remaining, the Comets decided to
punt and use its timeouts to try to get the ball back instead of going for the
first down. The punt was a short one, and Freeport (9-0) took over at the 32,
setting up Jinks' run.
"Because our defense had been playing so well, I thought we could hold them
there and get the ball back or block a field goal or something," Bell'Aquilla
said. "I really thought we would stop them."
Hicksville did a tremendous job containing Freeport. The Red Devils managed
only 130 yards, 106 of which came on Jinks' runs. Joe Mascaretti and Mike
Luyster blocked a field goal attempt by Freeport midway through the fourth
quarter that could have put the game away.
Freeport took the 6-0 lead with 8:10 left in the first half on Jinks'
5-yard touchdown run. The score was set up, in effect, by the Freeport defense
which pushed Hicksville toward its own end zone and forced the Comets to use a
quick kick on third-and-22 from the 15. The punt only traveled to the 28,
providing the Red Devils with terrific field position. The kick for the
extra-point was wide.
"They showed us some things we didn't practice on," Jinks said. "The main
thing for us was not to get frustrated. We had to stay focused. If you mess up,
you mess up. Just be better the next play."
It's hard to play better than the Freeport defense. Hicksville managed 73
yards of offense and never got within 30 yards of the end zone. D'Brickshaw
Ferguson and Trevor Mackey led the defense that pounded quarterback Matt
Restivo and contained running back Tom Brewer (37 yards on 16 carries).
Hicksville's best scoring opportunity may have been on the kickoff following
Brewer found an opening and had one man to beat - kicker Mike Hurley - but
Hurley shed a block and made the open-field tackle.
"The defense has been our one consistent the whole year," Cellan said.
"When we get a six-point lead, it's not easy for a lot of teams to overcome
that." Even if the team has been waiting 31 years to do it.
NASSAU CONFERENCE I PLAYOFFS
Semifinal - At Hofstra Stadium
F - Jinks 5 run (kick failed)