On the first play from scrimmage, Chris Collier’s eyes opened wide. Almost as wide as the hole he saw in front of him.
“It was a huge hole, a beautiful hole,” Collier said. “Anyone could have gotten through it.”
But Collier isn’t just anyone. He is Lawrence’s go-to running back and he exploded through the opening and raced 90 yards untouched for a touchdown that helped set a tone in the Golden Tornadoes’ 35-13 victory over Bethpage Saturday in a Nassau III football semifinal at Hofstra.
No. 1 Lawrence (9-1) will face Wantagh next Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Hofstra. No. 5 Bethpage finished 6-4.
Collier also broke a 64-yard touchdown run on a similar play late in the second quarter that gave Lawrence a 14-0 halftime lead. “Another big hole by our offensive line. I can’t thank them enough,” said Collier, who carried 30 times for 217 of the team’s 336 rushing yards.
Shifty quarterback Christian Fredericks added 79 yards on 10 carries, including a 42-yard TD run and also threw a 51-yard TD pass to Carlos Duran early in the fourth quarter that produced a 28-6 lead.
Collier may have been a bit wide-eyed on his first carry, but that was not the case with Lawrence coach Joe Martillotti. “As soon as I saw how they lined up I knew we’d score,” Martillotti said. “I turned to my coaches and said, ‘That’s a touchdown.’ It was a designed cutback. They overloaded to our trips [where the three wide receivers line up] and I knew if we got one block, Chris would be gone. It’s a look that we were expecting. Chris does what he has to do and we lean on him a lot.”
The Golden Tornadoes also leaned on their defense, which forced Bethpage quarterback Jason Seiter into four interceptions and two sacks though Seiter did turn in a breathtaking, tackle-breaking 51-yard touchdown run for Bethpage’s first score in the third quarter. He rushed for 118 yards but was limited to 69 yards passing.
“We knew we had to stop Seiter. Once we had him in check, I knew we had the game,” said Duran, who in addition to his big TD reception, made a critical pick-6, a 10-yard interception return with 3:21 left in the third quarter that was a game-changer.
Lawrence, holding a 14-6 lead, had driven 59 yards to the Bethpage 2, but a fumble was recovered by the Golden Eagles’ Angel Perreta. “After that turnover, we had to kill their momentum,” Duran said.
Duran delivered, picking off Seiter at the Bethpage 10 and taking it to the house. “When they lined up, I had a hunch they’d be passing,” said Duran, who added a second interception late in the fourth quarter. “Our defensive coach was screaming ‘check pass, check pass.’ That’s just what happened.”
Duran had Martillotti’s attention on his TD catch. “I told Coach, ‘I don’t think the cornerback is coming up’ so he called the play,” Duran said. “I acted like I would block and I just ran past him and caught the pass.”
He was wide open, of course.