It happens every Tuesday and then again before every game day. At Garden City they call it the "tip drill." The ball is tossed to one player, who tips it in the air for another to leap and grab.
"It's about pursuit and jumping for the highest point," the Trojans' James Sullivan said.
Just a routine drill, right? "It gets them thinking about getting to the ball," Garden City coach Tom Flatley said. "Every now and then it happens."
Saturday was "now and then" for Garden City. Sullivan, playing cornerback, intercepted a pass that tipped off the hands of a Mepham receiver and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown that was part of a second-half onslaught as host Garden City pulled away for a 56-21 victory in a Nassau II football game played before a crowd of more than 3,000.
In improving to 6-1 and a likely No. 2 seed behind unbeaten Carey in the conference playoffs, Garden City also scored on a kickoff return (97 yards by Justin Samardich on the game's first play), a blocked punt return (14 yards by George Petropoulos after Nick DeMoura shot the gap and made a clean block), a long pass (a 34-yard 'throwback' pass from Tim Schmelzinger to Sullivan out of the backfield) and two long runs (50 and 65 yards by Brian Haeffner). "It was our day. It wasn't Mepham's day. We scored a lot of different ways," Flatley said.
The Trojans did most of their damage in the second half. Mepham's Connecticut-bound quarterback Tyler Davis was a first-half force, carrying 24 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns as the Pirates were within 21-14 at the break. But Davis didn't get much help in the second half. He finished with 187 yards rushing on 33 carries plus another 101 yards passing and a touchdown.
"This was a huge game for us," Sullivan said. "We really wanted to come back big after losing to Carey [26-0] last week."
Garden City came out big in the second half, scoring on its first play from scrimmage when Haeffner (118 yards on seven carries) raced untouched up the middle through a gaping hole for a 50-yard touchdown and a 28-14 lead that kept growing. "I saw the whole field open up in front of me," Haeffner said. "All credit to my line. I always say they're the hardest-working group in practice."
Haeffner also took a pitch and cut back against the grain for a 65-yard touchdown run, aided by a Matt Borges' downfield block, early in the fourth quarter for a 49-21 lead. Haeffner also had praise for his close friend, Schmelzinger, a junior who played defensive back and wide receiver last season and won the quarterback job in the summer. "First time in 30 years we didn't have a starting quarterback entering camp," Flatley said.
They've got one now. Schmelzinger is an effective runner and improving passer, with two touchdown tosses Saturday and some slick ballhandling. "He's ridiculously elusive," Haeffner said. "I'll bet we came to this field five out of seven days every week in the summer to work on his throwing."
All that practice is paying off for Garden City. Just like the tip drills.