The East Rockaway football team wanted to make a statement.
The Rocks came into Saturday’s game against Cold Spring Harbor with a simple plan: hit the holes, make the tackles and play as a team. It worked. East Rockaway captured the 22-12 victory in Nassau IV, handing the Seahawks their first loss and walking off the field with a brand-new sense of confidence.
“It’s definitely a statement,” said running back Daniel “Caleb” Alvarez. “It shows that East Rockaway’s a real football team and we’re to be reckoned with.”
East Rockaway (3-1) came out running in the first quarter, jumping out to a 16-0 lead as the ground game hit its stride early. Jarell Brown got the Rocks on the board with a 3-yard carry, weaving his way around defenders, and Andrew Labarbera padded the lead on a 5-yard run with 46 seconds left in the quarter.
It was the first time Cold Spring Harbor allowed points all season.
“They couldn’t stop us, so we just kept running,” said Brown, who finished with 197 yards rushing on 27 carries. “We were confident because we had that mentality we were going to score every play.”
Cold Spring Harbor (3-1) answered quickly, scoring on its first drive of the second quarter as Raymond Costa hit Casey Reynolds in stride for a 43-yard touchdown. Costa found Thomas Milana for his second touchdown throw of the frame, this one from 35 yards out, with 1:05 in the half, cutting into East Rockaway’s lead to make it 16-12.
The Seahawks controlled tempo throughout the quarter, holding East Rockaway to 21 yards on nine plays, but the Rocks never doubted they’d bounce back.
“We came into this and we didn’t know what we were going to do, but we believed in each other,” said East Rockaway coach Russel Pajer. “Guys stepped up.”
East Rockaway’s defense held its own down the stretch, but Cold Spring Harbor looked ready to take its first lead with just over a minute left in the third.
Alvarez had other ideas.
He recovered the ball at the 10-yard line, after Stefano Cilluffo forced the fumble, keeping Cold Spring Harbor out of the end zone and preserving East Rockaway’s lead.
“Honestly, my reaction was just to get the ball,” Alvarez said. “At that point it’s all instinct.”
East Rockaway forced two more Cold Spring Harbor fumbles in the fourth quarter, recovered by Logan Ackerman and Ezequiel Espinal, and Brown notched his second touchdown, a 2-yard scramble with 3:16 left, to give the Rocks some breathing room.
Cold Spring Harbor tried to rally late, but Alvarez and Ackerman combined on a fourth-down sack with 29 seconds on the clock.
It wasn’t a perfect game, but East Rockaway was proud of the performance. The Rocks executed the game plan and, most importantly, made the statement they were hoping for; they’re ready to compete.
“We had to be disciplined and run our offense and make plays,” Pajer said. “It’s a team and we played like a team.”