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Brian Haeffner's 205 yards, three TDs lead Garden City over Westbury

Garden City running back Brian Haeffner breaks free

Garden City running back Brian Haeffner breaks free and runs for an 86-yard touchdown during the first quarter of a Nassau II varsity football game versus Westbury on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Credit: James Escher

What a runner!

He turned heads -- in the stands and on the field -- zipping downfield to the amazement of anyone not attempting to tackle him. He repeatedly cut left, cut right and cut back, essentially tap dancing through the defense for one great gallop after another.

We are, of course, talking about Brian Haeffner.

"With an explosive back like that, all we have to do is get to the right people," Trojans left tackle Liam Byrnes said. "Make a block and he's gone."

Garden City's tailback wasn't the big name on the backfield marquee entering this Nassau II contest. But that stuff only matters until Saturday.

Haeffner rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Trojans to a 31-0 victory over Westbury Saturday. And the 165-pound junior needed only 12 carries to amass that total, darting for scoring runs of 86, 54 and 21 yards.

Tim Schmelzinger completed 7 of 13 passes for 96 yards, a TD and an interception, and added 105 yards rushing for Garden City (3-0). Defensive back Matt Borges had two interceptions.

"I give all the credit to the line and everyone blocking downfield," Haeffner said. "They made it easy with the holes they opened up."

Without question, the offensive line and fullback James Sullivan are due praise. But Haeffner's vision and quickness turned good runs into spectacular ones.

Exhibit A: Haeffner made moot a mistake-filled first quarter, putting the Trojans on the board with 3:16 left in the period. He shot around left tackle, sidestepped a defender to break outside and outran the pursuit up the sideline for the 86-yarder.

Exhibit B: On a simple counter off right guard, Haeffner cut outside to create space, juked two defenders and then high-stepped and tiptoed attempted ankle tackles before shaking loose for 54 yards.

"He's so shifty, you never know what he'll do," Byrnes said. "We don't know if he's going to cut back or not, so it makes all of us stay alert."

The same could be said, from a defensive standpoint, regarding Westbury's Shalike Merchant. As impressive as their offense, so was the Trojans' containment of Merchant, a running back who erupted for 357 yards last week and had the Green Dragons (2-1) averaging 44 points in the first two games. Saturday Merchant carried 25 times for 156 yards with 54 coming on the last drive.

"He's very talented, so we had to know where he was at all times," said Trojans coach Tom Flatley, who turned 75. "He cuts back really well, but we were able to get there in time to keep him from breaking anything long. That was big."

Garden City alternated defensive fronts, switching between a 4-3 and "50" with five linemen. They also snagged two red-zone interceptions, including Chris Larkin's diving pick at the 1 in the fourth quarter.

"When you've got a guy who can do special things," Borges said, "that's someone everyone has to keep an eye on."

He was talking about Merchant. But that statement now also applies to Haeffner.

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