This was a make or break moment. The East Meadow offensive line knew it. The Oceanside defense knew it. And Oceanside's boisterous overflow crowd for Homecoming Saturday certainly knew it.
"It was one of those moments where you have to trust your offensive line and believe in your guys," East Meadow coach Vinny Mascia said. "It's never an easy decision."
Mascia decided against a fourth quarter punt that could have pinned Oceanside deep inside its 20. Instead, he opted for sophomore quarterback Anthony Love-Kemper to run the triple option on fourth down and 2 at the Oceanside 46.
All eyes were on East Meadow fullback John Wilson, who had already pounded the Oceanside front for 28 carries. Love-Kemper went option right, faked Wilson into the line, dipped his shoulder into a defender and at a moment before impact, pitched to halfback Brian Kavanagh, who ran 46 yards untouched for the decisive touchdown in East Meadow's 21-16 comeback win over Oceanside in a Nassau I game.
"It was a perfectly timed pitch," Kavanagh said. "The play was money. I told our coaches the play would work. The D was keying on John [Wilson] and not watching me."
Kavanagh's touchdown run and Dave Neustadt's third extra-point kick made it 21-10 with 9:21 left.
"We put the ball in a young quarterback's hands and he timed it right," Mascia said. "That play completely turned the game our way."
East Meadow (3-0), which squandered a 7-0 lead late in the first half and trailed 10-7 at halftime, rebounded with a near perfect second half. The Jets opened the third quarter with a 12-play, 71-yard march that consumed 7:02 of the clock before they turned the ball over on downs.
On Oceanside's first play of the third quarter, Kavanagh jumped a pass route for an interception at the Sailors 36 to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
"He made a very athletic play," Oceanside coach Rob Blount said. "He read the play and beat our receiver to the ball."
The interception set up the go-ahead score. Wilson, who finished with 121 yards on 32 carries, scored on his second 2-yard run after the short eight-play drive for a 14-10 lead. The Jets ran 20 offensive plays to Oceanside's 4 and used 11:01 of the clock in the third quarter.
"Our O-line had a big push," Wilson said. "It always starts with them."
Leading 21-10, the East Meadow defense came up with another big play when end Zach Fritz tipped a pass that was intercepted by Wilfer Ibañez with 6:55 left. On the ensuing play, Kavanagh got behind the secondary and made an acrobatic two-handed catch for a 38-yard completion down the middle of the field to the Oceanside 20.
"He completely twisted around to make that catch," Mascia said. "It was unbelievable. You can't teach some of the things he can do. He's a special athlete."
Sailors quarterback Vinny Guarino, who completed 11 of 23 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, had a 95-yard TD pass to Mike Ambrosecchia in the first half and James Paczkowski hit a 29-yard field goal as time expired for the 10-7 halftime lead.
"We could have been up two scores at the half," Mascia said. "Poor execution and awful time management cost us the lead. We rebounded well in the second half."
"We've lost to them four times in a row," two-way lineman Marcos Joseph Watkins said. "We have tremendous pride and tradition in our line play. And it showed today."