The Clarke football team isn’t trying to fool anybody.
The Rams don’t run a spread offense and aren’t trying to throw the ball around the field in a variety of different formations. The way they win is about as old-school football as it gets. And Clarke did it to perfection in the fourth quarter Saturday.
After Cold Spring Harbor’s Casey Reynolds sent a booming punt 56 yards to force Clarke to start its fourth-quarter possession with 11:47 remaining at its own 7-yard line, the Rams offensive linemen had a smile on their face. It was time for them to go to work.
Cold Spring Harbor never touched the ball again. Clarke possessed the ball the remainder of the fourth quarter, running 19 plays to the 12-yard line before a kneel down on the 20th play of the drive as the host Rams defeated Cold Spring Harbor, 22-14, in Nassau Conference IV football.
“Our coach always says the game is run through the line,” offensive lineman/linebacker Chris Stokum said. “We know every single game that the win or loss is dependent on us. We’re really supposed to pave the way and we did that today.”
The offensive line of Stokum, Karl Bouyer, Chris Perez, Anthony Rodriguez and Mike Heavey along with substitute Kevin Henning set the tone for Clarke from the opening whistle. Whether or not they get the attention isn’t their concern. But the linemen relish in opportunities to control a game, like they did in the fourth quarter Saturday.
“It’s by far the greatest feeling ever,” Stokum said. “I know for people outside of the game they may think the line’s not important and nobody cares about them. People look at the running backs, the receivers, who’s making the plays but what a lot of people don’t realize is the hard work that is required by the linemen in order to make that happen.”
In doing so, Clarke handed the defending Class IV Long Island champions their first loss of the season, and their first loss since the Rams defeated Cold Spring Harbor, 34-21, last year in the regular season. Both teams are tied for the best record in the conference at 5-1.
“We know what they did last year and we beat them last year, so we wanted to show it again,” running back Lucas Abbatiello said. “We wanted to make a statement, big time.”
Abbatiello was at the forefront of the Rams' offense, rushing for 141 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He also ran in two two-point conversions and scored the game’s final touchdown on a 10-yard run with 1:10 remaining in the third quarter.
“He’s just a playmaker,” coach Tim O’Malley said. “He can do anything. He can make a negative play into a positive play any given time. He’s a really special player.”
Abbatiello rushed 10 times in the final drive, including a 13-yard run on fourth-and-12 with 3:30 remaining.
“We were thinking if we got past that first down line, the game’s over,” he said. “If we took it, we’d go home happy.”
Cold Spring Harbor entered Saturday scoring at least 38 points in every game, but the Clarke defense held the Seahawks to 62 yards of total offense.
“Our mentality is if we just hit them hard, they are going to back off,” said Bouyer, who had three sacks. “And I think we accomplished that today.”
“They believe in each other,” O’Malley said. “They trust in each other and that comes through in games like this. It’s the intangibles that really make it special.”