Austin Perri, the elusive Lindenhurst quarterback, has made big plays all season.
However, it’ll be tough to top his final play in Friday night’s Suffolk I football game.
Host Lindenhurst and Floyd battled into overtime after Floyd’s 26-play, 77-yard drive in the fourth quarter that consumed 11:12 came up empty. Junior Rick Conway partially blocked a 37-yard field goal attempt to force overtime.
In overtime, Floyd halfback Nick Silva had scored his third touchdown of the game and Ray Cruz added the extra-point to give the Colonials a seven-point lead.
On its overtime possession, Lindenhurst wide receiver Jeremy Ruckert caught a 16-yard sideline pass from Perri to set up Andy Merkerson’s 1-yard scoring run and the Bulldogs trailed by a point.
Decision time! Go for two and try and win it. Or kick the point and go to a second overtime.
It was Perri’s moment.
Lindenhurst coach Nick Lombardo said it wasn’t an easy decision, but going for the two-point conversion with an athlete like Perri was the call.
Perri, in shotgun formation, rolled left, and found Ruckert in double coverage. So he scrambled back to his right and eluded two tacklers, desperately trying to find an open receiver — no one was open.
Perri retreated to his 20-yard line chased by exhausted Floyd defenders. His final move was to shake those defenders and break toward the goal line. He picked up a perfect comeback block from wide receiver Steven Ramirez. Two tacklers converged on Perri at the goal line, as he leapt over them and into the end zone on the home sideline for the score.
Perri’s two-point conversion gave Lindenhurst a thrilling 22-21 win in overtime before a packed house of more than 2,200 in Lindenhurst. The win moved Lindenhurst to 7-0 and dropped Floyd to 6-1.
“I rolled to my left and Jeremy was covered, so I worked my way back across the defense just trying to keep the play alive,” Perri said. “I’ve always been a scrambler. I guess I like it.”
The Lindenhurst crowd loved it. Teammates Damian Majkrzak and Mauricio Hernandez put Perri on their shoulders and paraded him in front of the overflow crowd, which went wild.
“He’s a very good athlete and we missed a few tackles on him,” said Floyd’s Nick Silva, who showed extreme class at the end of an emotional game. “I give them a lot of credit going for the two points. I respect that decision. We’ll see them again in the playoffs.”
If Friday night was the preview of the Suffolk I final, the encore will be a doozy.
Floyd led 14-7 at the half on the strength of two Silva 1-yard scoring runs. The first came with 3:30 left and the go-ahead score came with 38 seconds left in the half.
Lindenhurst seized the momentum in the third quarter. The Bulldogs forced a three-and-out and then went on a 14-play, 68-yard scoring drive, keyed by three fourth-down conversions.
On fourth-and-12 from the Colonials 26, Perri fired a 26-yard scoring strike to Ramirez. Ruckert’s kick tied it at 14 with 2:46 left in the third. It was Ramirez’s second touchdown — he had a 38-yard scoring run on a first quarter reverse.
“Epic game, what a win,” Lombardo said. “I’m shot.”