With scoring at a premium early, Jesse Distasio provided the spark Centereach needed.
The junior blocked a punt, chased it down and recovered it in the end zone with 2:01 left in the first quarter, opening the scoring for the Cougars in a 26-0 victory over host Copiague Saturday.
“He’s just a guy with a motor that just never stops running,” coach Adam Barrett said. “That blocked punt was huge for us considering our offensive struggles in the first half.”
Distasio’s touchdown stood as the only points into the third quarter until running back Alec Kiernan scored a TD from 1 yard with 3:48 remaining in the period.
“He’s our workhorse, we feed him the ball at least 20 times a game,” Barrett said.
Distasio continued to be a factor when he recovered a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff. That set up Jay Morwood’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Shawn McFarland, which gave the Cougars a 20-0 lead.
“I was hoping the punt block would help bust things open for us, but we continued to struggle to get the ball moving,” Distasio said. “I just promise my team 100 percent every game and that recovery helped us get that ‘W.’ ”
The Cougars last made the playoffs in 2002, but have started 3-1 this season and Saturday’s shutout reinforced their belief that they have the defense to reach the postseason.
“Despite a tough week [a 36-20 Sept. 10 loss] against Bellport, we’ve managed to get to zeros on the board in consecutive weeks” Barrett said of his team’s back-to-back shutouts. “That’s always a great feeling to have when you’re looking forward into the season.”
Kiernan led the ground attack, rushing for 85 yards on 25 carries. Morwood threw for 107 yards on 8-for-13 passing. Kevin Amaya gained 17 yards on three carries, including a 5-yard touchdown run that completed the scoring. Shawn McFarland caught three passes.
Despite a few big plays from Copiague, the Centereach defense looked dominant, forcing several three-and-outs. Vinny Liotta and Chris Witherspoon each had one sack.