Stewart picked himself up and rallied Garden City from a 12-point halftime deficit with two touchdown passes and a two-point conversion pass as the Trojans rallied for a thrilling 22-18 win over Carey on Saturday in the semifinal round of the Nassau Conference II football playoffs at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
Garden City (9-1) extended its dominance over Carey (7-3) in the postseason. The Trojans have won all six playoff encounters between the two schools and hold a 21-3 advantage in the all-time series. Garden City will face Wantagh (8-2) for the Nassau II title next Sunday at Hofstra at noon.
Stewart completed 17 of 30 passes for 163 yards and two interceptions and also had 71 yards rushing. His second scoring pass, a 6-yarder to Spencer Bais in the fourth quarter that gave the Trojans a 13-12 lead, tied Matt Casey's 1998 Garden City school record of 20 touchdown passes in a season.
"I threw two interceptions in the first half and I didn't get down on myself," Stewart said. "You can't do that. I wanted to get to the championship."
Stewart was less than impressed with his record-tying performance; he was more in tune with the delight of his teammates, who celebrated all around him.
"This win was for the seniors," Stewart said. "I don't really care about records."
Stewart's toughness keyed the Trojans' second-half comeback.
Carey went ahead 6-0 when quarterback Ray Catapano rolled right and lofted a long pass to a wide-open James Carr down the visitors' sideline for a 76-yard touchdown with 6:30 left in the first quarter. The extra-point kick failed.
Carey made it 12-0 when halfback Conner Colasurdo took a direct snap and followed a big block from Sean Nagy to score on a 1-yard run. The two-point pass attempt failed with 5:51 left in the half.
Catapano completed 10 of 12 passes for 182 yards in the first half as the Seahawks went to intermission in control.
But Garden City used a seven-play, 73-yard drive in 3:21 to cut the lead in half. Justin Guterding caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Stewart down the sideline and spun away from a defender for the score. Gerard Smith added the kick to make it 12-7.
"We wanted to prove people wrong," Guterding said. "There were people who didn't think we could win."
Carey responded with a drive to the Garden City 3, keyed by a 63-yard pass to Matt Robison. But on third-and-goal, an errant toss was recovered by Guterding at the Trojans' 6.
Stewart then directed a 12-play, 94-yard touchdown drive capped by a 6-yard pass to Bais, and when Tim McDonagh caught the two-point conversion pass, Garden City led 15-12 with 7:12 left in the game.
Catapano, who completed 23 of 31 passes for 353 yards and two scores, drove Carey 67 yards to the Trojans' 1, and on fourth-and-goal, the Seahawks went back to the Wildcat formation with Colasurdo in the backfield. He took the snap and dived into the left side of the line but was denied inches from the goal line.
After an unsportsmanlike- conduct penalty moved the ball to the 16, halfback Scott D'Antonio reeled off an 84-yard touchdown run to seal the win.
The first player to congratulate D'Antonio was Stewart, the kid who got back up and led his team to the title game.