Sachem East got a hard lesson Saturday. The Flaming Arrows put together a phenomenal game against host Floyd and stood on the precipice of stripping the Colonials of their invincibility. However if you’re going to take out Suffolk Division I’s defending champion and current favorite, you’re going to have to take its last breath.
Floyd stared down defeat for almost the entire game until quarterback Tommy Verga made defeat blink in its last moments by connecting with Wayne Bristel for a 56-yard touchdown with five seconds to play. Brian Lombardo’s extra point broke a tie score and gave the Colonials an epic 21-20 win before a crowd of approximately 3,000 at Woodhull Elementary School.
“This was a character check for-sure,” Floyd coach Paul Longo said. “In Suffolk County last year, we didn’t have any games that were close at all. And this year we’ve been doing pretty good, but because of all our injuries — more serious ones than any team I’ve had — keep piling up, these are the kind of games we’re going to have. And if we want to continue to win, we’re going to have to win close games.”
Floyd (4-0) seemed to be playing with desperation and making mistakes early in the fourth quarter. Sachem East’s Ryan Paolella took a run to the left side and the Colonials went for the strip instead of the tackle; Paolella ended up hanging on and going 68 yards to the 2. Nick Stelling scored on a 2-yard dive on the next play for a 20-7 lead, but the extra point was blocked.
The Colonials completed four of five passes on the ensuing 71-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Verga with 5:15 left to play. Sachem East (2-2) tried to get as much off the clock as it could on the next possession before punting and giving Floyd a last crack with 45 seconds left on its own 23.
Verga was running a two-minute drill well with no timeouts left until he found Bristel for a 2-yard pass to the Floyd 44, where he couldn’t get out of bounds. Verga chose not to spike the ball and stop the clock, but rather to go for the long bomb. The 6-3 Bristel went high over a defender to pull it in, ran down the left sideline and took it in. On the Floyd sidelinem it was stunned delirium; on the Arrows’, heartbreaking tears.
“What a pass,” Bristel said. “He put it on the money.”
“The defense is all rushing around in that moment, so I figured we should give it a shot instead of spiking it and giving them a chance to set up,” Verga said. “That’s why I made the call.”
Sachem East had real stars in this one who didn’t end up with a win as a result. Stelling was 9-for-16 passing for 91 yards and two touchdowns to go with his rushing score. Paolella ran for 120 yards on 10 carries and caught a TD pass. And Jason Bruno sparkled on defense with two sacks, three tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery.
Verga was 13-for-22 passing for 187 yards and two touchdowns — he also had a 14-yarder to Andrew Minelli — and had the rushing score.
“We’ve had like some game-winning touchdowns in the last seconds, but nothing compares to this. This was just incredible,” Verga said. “I told coach Longo at halftime ‘I’m not gonna let us lose this game’ and into the last seconds I was determined: get me the ball back and we will score.”