The chance to play for a championship. The chance to avenge the lone loss of the season. The chance to defend a crown.
Cold Spring Harbor’s Richie Striano saw all those in front of him in the fourth quarter on Saturday night and he wasn’t about to let them get away.
Talented and formidable Clarke rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit and took a six-point lead with eight minutes to play as Chris Giardino scored on a 1-yard sneak and then threw for a two-point conversion. That’s when Striano went to work.
The senior quarterback carried the ball on all eight plays of a 61-yard drive, pulled Cold Spring Harbor even with a 1-yard sneak of his own and then ran in the two-point conversion to give the Seahawks a 16-14 Nassau Conference IV semifinal win at Hofstra.
Cold Spring Harbor (9-1), which won county and LIC titles last season, will meet Seaford (9-1) in Saturday’s 4 p.m. county title game. It is a rematch of the last two Nassau IV finals. CSH won the teams’ lone meeting this fall, 44-6.
“I don't hesitate to call Richie’s number — he’s one of those guys who takes the game on his back and rises to every occasion,” Seahawks coach Jon Mendreski said. “We spoke before we came out for that drive and he said to me, ‘You give it to me as many times as you want.’ They could not stop him.”
Striano carried 20 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns for CSH. Lucas Abbatiello ran for 127 yards and a touchdown for the Rams (8-2).
Striano was in on virtually every big play for Cold Spring Harbor. He scored on a 3-yard run in the second quarter and followed that by taking the ball in for the two-point conversion. When Clarke scored in the third quarter on Abbatiello’s 9-yard sweep, Striano stymied the Clarke senior a yard short on the game-tying conversion attempt. And then he scored the tying and game-winning points.
Most of those runs for the points came behind the blocking of Ethan Burdo, Chris Romanoff and Peter Striano, Richie’s brother.
“I love having the ball, but I love when my teammates are succeeding, too, and they were doing a hell of a job blocking for me,” Richie Striano said. “I just followed them, lanes opened up and I'm the one that ends up looking good.”
Clarke topped Cold Spring Harbor in the regular season, 22-14, with a grinding fourth-quarter drive that ate up virtually all the clock and denied the Seahawks a chance to strike back.
“Burdo told me after that, ‘We’re not letting that happen again,’ ” Richie Striano said. “The whole team was pretty focused and determined.”