In so many ways, Carey had the terms of its Nassau II semifinal dictated to it by MacArthur. The Seahawks weren’t able to use the air attack they employed to win the teams’ regular-season meeting and they had their possessions kept to a minimum by the Generals’ methodical ground game.
However, this Carey team is resourceful and that’s the reason it pulled out Thursday night’s come-from-behind 13-7 victory at Hofstra.
Running back Anthony DeNicola rushed for 88 of his 102 yards and both of his touchdowns in the second half and the defense stopped MacArthur seven times on third down and came up with a turnover on the biggest play of the game to get the Seahawks (8-2) into next Thursday’s title game against Garden City.
Carey will be going for its third Nassau II crown in six seasons; Garden City will be going for its third in a row.
“They gave us all we could handle and I’m proud of our kids for hanging in there and fighting and finding a way,” Carey coach Mike Stanley said. “Their defense made us run the ball and we had to do it.”
The first half was all MacArthur (6-4) as it ran the ball 35 times, kept Carey off the field and led 7-0 at the break. Running back Hugh Kelleher took the Generals on his broad shoulders through those first 24 minutes with 27 of his 36 carries for 142 of his 199 yards and the three-yard touchdown run. MacArthur had the ball for 19:28 of the half.
Carey got the ball to start the second half and when right to work tying it with a 58-yard drive that ended with DeNicola’s 11-yard score. He carried the ball on six of eight plays in a drive the bridged the third and fourth quarters and scored on a 10-yard burst through the middle for the 13-7 lead.
That’s when things got a bit hairy. Kelleher and MacArthur started moving the ball. On a play when he broke into the defensive backfield and had gained over 20 yards, junior defensive back Conor Murray managed to strip the ball and junior defensive back Nicholas Bell fell recovered the fumble on the Seahawks’ 27.
“You have to be playing your hardest and you have to go after the ball there,” Murray said. “That was a huge play and a big momentum swing.”
What did Bell think when he saw the ball on the turf? “That’s the ball game,” he said.
The Generals only got the ball one more time and couldn’t move it.
“That was an outstanding effort by MacArthur tonight. [Kelleher] is as good a player as there is,” Stanley said.
Carey was one of two teams that actually held a lead on the Trojans this season in a 24-point loss in Week 4. DeNicola said the Seahawks are better now.
“Every week it seems we’re better on offense and defense,” he said. “We’re going to be ready.