Leading by one point on the road with eight minutes left in the game, a quarterback has one thought: Score to secure the win, even when all odds are against you.
Garden City and quarterback Brett Stewart were on the verge of putting away Wantagh yesterday, driving to the Warriors' 15-yard line with less than four minutes left. But on first down the Trojans were called for offensive pass interference that led to a third-and-22 situation.
Yet Stewart's mindset never changed. "I'm always thinking touchdown," he said. "No matter what."
Taking a snap at the Wantagh 27, Stewart dropped back and floated a jump ball to the end zone for his 6-foot-3 receiver Brian Colamussi, who hauled it in and held on tightly as he hit the ground with Wantagh defenders clawing for possession. Gerard Smith converted a long extra point after an excessive celebration penalty to make it 21-13 with 2:06 left, as Garden City (5-1) held on to win by that score in Nassau II.
Stewart, who completed 10 of 17 passes for 191 yards and three TDs while also rushing for 75 yards, had checked to a pass play on that first down from the 15, which led to the offensive pass interference call against Colamussi.
"I put the ball in a bad spot the first time and let my emotion get to me when I checked to a pass play, so I thought on the third down, 'let's go back to it, they won't be smart enough to think we'd try it again,' " Stewart said. "This time I threw it in the right spot and he made a great play."
Said Colamussi: "I wanted redemption the next chance I got."
Stewart set Garden City's school record for career passing yards, surpassing Mike Gluck's mark of 2,431 set in 1991, with 2,460 yards for his three-year varsity career.
Wantagh (4-2) had two chances before the Trojans' last touchdown to tie the score, but came up short both times. Trailing 14-7 near the end of the second quarter, the Warriors were driving, using a 35-yard hook-and-latter completion that brought them inside Trojans' territory and a fake field goal on fourth down with a minute left in the half that brought the ball to the Garden City 14.
But with 30 seconds left in the half, Wantagh used one too many trick plays, calling a halfback pass on fourth-and-inches from the Garden City 5-yard line that sailed incomplete, keeping it 14-7 at halftime.
"I wasn't expecting it but we've got a book of their trick plays and it gets thicker every year, so we're ready for it," Garden City coach Tom Flatley said. "When he took off, you could see the path he was taking, he wasn't attacking the line so we got to it."
Late in the third, Brett Newman caught a 7-yard TD pass to bring Wantagh within 14-13, but Garden City's Liam Byrnes blocked the ensuing PAT.
In Garden City's final 11-play, 71 yard scoring drive, Stewart completed a 28-yard back-shoulder pass to Thomas Wright, and scrambled for two first downs on third-and-longs to set up Colamussi's final TD. On Wantagh's final possession, Justin Samardich intercepted a pass with 55 seconds remaining to clinch the victory.