Corey Bull, who was Roosevelt’s leading rusher entering the game, had been mostly silent Friday night. But oh did Bull make some noise when the Rough Riders needed him most.
He returned a punt 65 yards for a game-clinching touchdown with 2:27 left as Roosevelt defeated Lawrence, 28-14, in a Nassau III semifinal at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
The Rough Riders (9-1) will face Wantagh next Friday at 7 p.m. at Hofstra. Lawrence finished 7-3, but the Golden Tornadoes were very much in the game until Bull’s defining moment. He fielded the punt on one bounce in the middle of the field, cut left to some open space down the sideline and turned on the jets.
He nearly was caught by a couple of Lawrence defenders, but stutter-stepped and cut back to finish the play of the game.
Before that, Kevon Hall carried the load for Roosevelt. He gained 128 yards on 27 carries, including touchdown runs of 8 and 2 yards that built a 14-0 second-quarter lead.
Hall also sparked an active defense with eight tackles. The Rough Riders made two important goal-line stands, with Tyon Grimes in the middle of both.
Grimes made an interception at the 5 in the closing seconds of the first half, a play on which he had 95 yards of clear sailing for a pick-6 if he had been able to keep his feet.
Grimes also broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone late in the third quarter with Roosevelt leading 21-7, thanks to Farrakhan Anderson’s juggling catch for a 27-yard touchdown pass from Stephan Vailes earlier in the period.
Lawrence capitalized on Isaiah Godwin’s interception and scored on Akym Land’s 9-yard pass to Danny Amaya (five receptions for 61 yards, 7 1⁄2 tackles) that made it 21-14 with 7:42 left.
The Golden Tornadoes twice forced Roosevelt to punt, but the Rough Riders did the same to Lawrence each time.
It was one punt too many once Bull got his hands on the ball. He may have had only three yards on eight carries, but in the end, Roosevelt still triumphed thanks to the running of the Bull.