Nijay Brown was nervous in the days leading up to Saturday's game. Nervous during the game. Really nervous as she lined up for an extra-point attempt in the first quarter.
The butterflies and fears of failure, Brown said, aren't unusual. But neither is her success. For three years, the Eastport-South Manor senior has made moot the fact that she is a football anomaly.
This kick, too, was good. And with it, Brown became the first girl to score in a Suffolk PAL All-Star game, helping Division II-III beat Division I-IV, 14-7, at Sachem North.
"It means so much to me," said Brown, who also had kickoff duties. "Being a girl and getting the respect of my teammates [over time] and then making it to an All-Star game. It's amazing."
Deer Park's Chris Tavella said Brown fit in with the group, then turned heads in practice: "I was like, 'Whoa! She kicks better than most boys!' "
John Daniggelis of Smithtown East was named offensive MVP, throwing for 165 yards and a touchdown. Tavella had five tackles and three pass deflections to earn defensive MVP and ESM's Pat Minogue had two sacks.
"It's bittersweet because you really want to strap the pads on again, playing for a championship," Islip lineman Cobi Rose said. "But playing in a game like this is something we'll always remember."
Daniggelis hit Nick Gilley (West Babylon) for a 75-yard TD and a 7-0 lead with 4:47 left in the first quarter. On a go route, the ball was tipped by a defensive back, but Gilley twisted to snag the deflection.
Division II-III opened the game with Daniggelis lined up at flanker. He took a screen behind the line of scrimmage and then threw deep to Bulls teammate Jesse Whiting for a 45-yard completion. It was a play the Bulls drew up for the playoffs but didn't use, Daniggelis said, "so I begged them to let us try it."
Westhampton's Henry Moreta found Amityville's Brenden Paula for a 55-yard TD to make it 14-0. Lavelle Hall (Brentwood) scored on a 5-yard run in the second for I-IV. Center Moriches' Tyrell Thomas (offensive MVP) threw for 52 yards and ran for 34. Defensive MVP Connor Farrell (Sachem East) had three tackles and a forced fumble.
"This might be the last time I'm playing football, so it's great to end with a win," Tavella said. "We all take a lot of pride in this."