Andy Merkerson — remember the name. The Lindenhurst halfback stole the spotlight against Longwood in Friday night’s Suffolk Division I football game on homecoming in Middle Island.
Merkerson rushed for 173 yards and scored on a 38-yard run and a 34-yard screen pass as Lindenhurst throttled Longwood, 37-0, before more than 2,300.
Lindenhurst is 6-0 heading into next Friday’s first-place showdown against undefeated Floyd (5-0) at 6 p.m. in Lindenhurst. It was the third straight loss for Longwood (3-3), Long Island’s defending Class I champion.
“I like the way we’re playing,” Lindenhurst coach Nick Lombardo said. “This is the most complete game we’ve played this season.”
Merkerson’s scoring run capped a five-play, 86-yard drive and gave Lindenhurst a 6-0 lead with 9:55 left in the half.
“We get him space and he’s so dynamic and elusive, just a really hard runner,” Lombardo said. “He was an impact player on defense last year and getting his opportunity now on offense. He’s no longer under the radar, that’s for sure.”
His touchdown catch on a middle screen in the third quarter was a thing of beauty. Lindenhurst quarterback Austin Perri backpedaled, drawing the Longwood defense deep into the backfield, before dropping a perfect pass to Merkerson, who sprinted down the sideline and eluded two defensive backs for the score and a 30-0 lead.
“I just follow the blocks,” he said. “Austin waited for the right time, it was a perfect throw and then I just turned and went. Our line was great tonight. That first touchdown run was keyed by big blocks from Rob Protano and Mike Newman.”
Longwood squandered an early 14-play drive that included a roughing-the-kicker penalty and a well-executed fake punt for a 9-yard run by Dave Perez and a first down at the Bulldogs’ 39-yard line.
“Our defense was really outstanding, has been all season,” Lombardo said. “We needed that stop. And it was a momentum-changer.”
Merkerson’s rushing score came on the ensuing drive and Jeremy Ruckert made it 9-0 when he drilled a 29-yard field goal with 3:54 left in the half.
The dagger came in the final minute of the first half. The Longwood defense forced a punt with 26 seconds remaining but the ball bounced off a Longwood player and Lindenhurst recovered at the Lions’ 20-yard line. Three plays later, Perri scrambled for a 12-yard touchdown run and a 16-0 halftime lead.
“He makes big plays,” Merkerson said. “That score before the half ended was a big one. Especially getting the ball back in the second half.”