The Carey football team ended October in just about the worst way possible, dropping three straight and limping into the playoffs as the fifth seed.
November already has proved kinder.
Aided by two long touchdowns from wide receiver Nick Giacalone, the fifth-seeded Seahawks got back in the win column with a 28-25 victory over host Elmont, the No. 4 seed, in a Nassau II quarterfinal on Saturday.
Carey will play No. 2 Mepham at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s been a brutal month of October, so to get one here in November was huge,” coach Mike Stanley said. “I’m very proud of the kids. We had some really, really tough losses the last couple weeks.”
Trailing 13-7 with less than six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Carey quarterback Dom Rutigliano tossed a short screen to Giacalone. The junior broke a few tackles and turned on the jets, sprinting past the secondary and scoring from 76 yards away. Riley DeMeo’s extra point gave Carey a 14-13 lead.
Giacalone capped Carey’s next drive with another highlight, catching Rutigliano’s deep ball over the middle of the field on third-and-10 and running 87 yards for a touchdown and a 21-13 lead.
“I just went through my reads and he seemed to be open,” said Rutigliano, who completed 12 of 28 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns. “I just stuck my foot in the ground and threw the ball, made a play.”
After Elmont’s two-point conversion attempt failed following a Chester Anderson touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter, Carey again turned to the passing game with a 21-19 lead.
Rutigliano took the snap, booted left and fired to Giacalone again over the middle. This one didn’t go for a touchdown, but the 49-yard reception was integral in Barry Moore’s 5-yard touchdown run just three plays later.
“I run every route, every snap as hard as I can,” said Giacalone, who caught four passes for 217 yards. “Especially a game like this, a playoff game.”
The 28-19 lead was enough to withstand Michael Djalo’s second rushing touchdown of the game late in the fourth quarter for Elmont (5-4). Djalo totaled 142 yards on 17 carries. Anderson caught nine passes for 150 yards and rushed for a 75-yard touchdown.
Carey (5-4) overcame Elmont’s explosive offense with timely turnovers, turning two Anthony DeNicola fumble recoveries into touchdowns.
“The defense has been stepping up and kind of carrying us a little bit,” Rutigliano said. “It just helps so much having a shorter field.”
With that defense supplemented by a budding offense, Carey is turning the corner at the right time. More November success would help make October’s struggles a distant memory.