When Sachem East fell behind Northport 14-0 in a playoff game last month, the coaching staff knew exactly where to look to spark a comeback.
They understood that senior lineman Dan Carroll wouldn’t score any of the touchdowns needed, but his dominance on both sides of the ball would be a key starting point.
“After we fell behind, he completely collapsed their defensive line and we scored 21 straight points basically running it,” Sachem East coach Anthony Gambino said. “Defensively, he controlled the line of scrimmage and they couldn’t run the ball. In that second half, he took it to another level.”
For his outstanding play on both lines, Carroll, a tackle on offense who lined up everywhere on the defensive line, was given the Zellner Award as Suffolk’s top lineman and the Burnett Award as the top defensive player at the Suffolk County Football Coaches Association dinner in Hauppauge on Monday night.
“The line really sets the tone,” Carroll said. “If the offensive line isn’t clicking, then nothing will work. It sets up the run game, which then sets up the pass game.”
Gambino called him the best lineman he’s coached in six years at Sachem East and one of the best he’s ever seen in a coaching career that spans more than 20 years in the Sachem district.
“He shuts down any run plays between the tackles,” Gambino said. “He forces double-teams, and that opens things up for the rest of the defense.”
Gambino recalled warning Carroll about watching for screens when playing defense. The 6-3, 240-pounder still managed to pressure the quarterback before turning and chasing down running backs, as he did to stop a potential go-ahead drive when Sachem East beat Commack for its first win this season.
“He’s been an intricate part of our team, and his motor never stops,” Gambino said. “He’s stronger than most men I know and he’s quicker than lightning.”
And that doesn’t account for the leadership role Carroll assumed as a player who grew up in the Sachem football program.
“This year I was a little more vocal as a leader, but I just always made sure I showed up on time, never missed practice or fundraisers. I always wanted the guys to know it’s the right thing to do,” Carroll said. “I saw both of my brothers go through the program and learned how the leaders on the good teams went about things, and if everyone did the right thing, we could get somewhere special.”
Carroll had 80 total tackles this season. Though he said he prefers the defensive side of the ball, he was honored to be recognized for his all-around play.
“I think this shows that all my hard work has paid off,” he said.
And those who know him know the hard work won’t stop anytime soon.