Safety Rob Kreush batted down the final pass of the Comsewogue football season and the celebration was on in East Islip. The incompletion with 19 seconds left at the East Islip 16 helped the Redmen survive a wild Comsewogue comeback.
Quarterback Brandon Miller completed 13 of 26 passes for 177 yards and scored on two short touchdown runs to lead No. 3 East Islip in a 21-14 win over No. 6 Comsewogue before a crowd of more than 1,100 in a Suffolk Division III quarterfinal playoff game at Sal Ciampi Field in Islip Terrace.
But this one was more about the East Islip defense than its high-scoring offense.
Defensive linemen Sebastian Pelaez and Jay Zimmerman embraced as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The two were responsible in stopping Comsewogue on its final possession, recording two sacks in the final three plays and pushing the Warriors out to midfield for one last desperation heave.
“We battled up front all game against the best line we’ve faced,” Pelaez said. “Jay pushed the quarterback into me on one sack and we got him together in the other.”
Zimmerman and Peleaz pressured junior quarterback Brady Shannon most of the game. They combined for two sacks to short circuit a late second quarter drive.
“Our coaches had us in the right spots to make plays,” Zimmerman said.
East Islip (7-2) will face Westhampton Beach (8-1) in a semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday.
The first half belonged to four-year starter Anthony Carroll and East Islip, which led 14-0 at the break. Carroll had a 35-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter to open the scoring and he also had two interceptions.
“He’s one of those rare players that comes up to the varsity at an early age and has an immediate impact,” East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi said. “And he’s a senior this year and relied upon to come out and make big plays.”
Carroll’s contributions started on East Islip’s first possession. On second-and-21, he made a leaping catch in double coverage at the Comsewogue 5-yard line and made his way into the end zone. Matt Boyd added the kick to make it 7-0 with 7:25 left in the first quarter.
“Anthony did a good job running the route and the defenders didn’t see the ball until it was too late,” Ciampi said. “And Anthony made a great adjustment for the catch.”
In the second quarter, both defensive units came through with fourth-down stops. Comsewogue (4-5) used a diving 26-yard catch by wide receiver Anthony Cambria on third-and-14 to move the ball to the East Islip 48. On fourth-and-4 at the 29, Brady Shannon located Brett Deegan running free behind the secondary.
East Islip safety Ryan Ferremi sprinted across the field and made a headlong dive to knock away what looked like a sure-thing touchdown pass.
“He’s a great athlete and had the make-up speed to get across the field and make a play,” Ciampi said.
Comsewogue defensive end Tyler Shannon came up with his own defensive gem on the next possession. The Redmen drove 52 yards to the Warriors' 19 to set up a fourth-and-2 play. Miller rolled right and had halfback Derek Burrell all alone in the flat for the first down, but Shannon got off the block on the edge and reached out and slapped the pass down to end the threat with 5:56 left in the half.
"That guy is a great player,” Pelaez said. “He’s a tough kid and all over the field.”
Carroll got his first interception on the next series. Brady Shannon fired a third-down pass over the middle where Carroll made a one-handed interception. He returned the ball 24 yards to the Comsewogue five setting up a Miller 3-yard TD run with 4:45 left for the 14-0 halftime lead.
"I contained the edge and the halfback went out for a swing pass,” Carroll said with a laugh. “So I was late into my drop back into pass coverage. I guess it was a good thing because the receiver looked wide open.”
Comsewogue roared back in the second half. Cambria got behind the safety and Brady Shannon hit him in stride for a 49-yard TD pass to make it 14-7 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
On the Warriors' ensuing possession, halfback Jaden Martinez caught a swing pass on third-and-15 and followed a huge block from Tyler Shannon for 44 yards to the 1. Martinez scored from a yard out and Frank Raspanti added the extra point to tie it at 14 with 8:29 left in the game.
The Redmen responded with an eight-play, 54-yard scoring drive. Kreush made a crucial 37-yard catch for a first down at the Warriors 16 and four plays later, Miller added a 5-yard TD run with 4:44 left.
“Coach [Kyle] Madden told me to run the post and get inside the defender as he turned his hips,” Kreush said. “And it was a good pass and I had to go up and get it.”