This year, Chihuahuas. Next year, rottweilers.
Maurice Irby and Evan Lapice, the pint-size pistols out of the Freeport backfield, didn't have Isaiah Barnes-like performances in Freeport's 62-35 win over Floyd in the Long Island Class I championship game Friday at Hofstra. But as they've done all season, the little guys contributed with big plays. The dogs got their bone in the form of a second straight LIC trophy.
Irby, listed at 5-3, 140 pounds, rushed for 77 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown to cap the scoring. Lapice (5-4, 140) made a 54-yard reception from receiver Jere Brown on an option pass that set up Dan Olivier's tying 2-yard touchdown run. In a game full of big plays, Lapice's catch down the middle was the longest from scrimmage.
"Size doesn't mean anything in football," Irby said in opposition to eons of conventional football thinking. "It's all about heart."
The Chihuahuas have plenty of that. Given their nickname by the Freeport coaching staff because they're "short, fast and feisty," according to Lapice, the duo are terrors in the open field.
Nearly all of Irby's carries come when he motions from the slot and sneaks around the end behind the ogres on the offensive line. Lapice finds his open field on kick returns (he had 77 yards on four returns Friday).
"We go in behind those big guys and the defense can't find us until we blow past them," Irby said. "Nobody's selfish on this team; everybody contributes equally."
The Chihuahuas realized they had met their match speed-wise when they saw Floyd's Stacey Bedell race 91 yards for a touchdown on the opening kickoff. Both players are on the kick-coverage team and couldn't catch the Colonials' speedster on that play. Or on Bedell's 52-yard TD run (Lapice and Irby both play in the defensive backfield). Or on Bedell's 40-yard interception return for a score. "Damn, he's fast," Irby said of Bedell.
But Irby and Lapice aren't ones to give up. Though Bedell hurt them, they helped limit Floyd's passing game to six completions for 76 yards, including a long of 20.
Irby and Lapice are juniors, so they'll spend this offseason in the weight room and add some bulk to their frames. As Irby added, some inches wouldn't hurt, either.
Said Irby: "We're Chihuahuas right now, but next year we're coming back as rottweilers."
Watch out, Conference I. Freeport's underdogs won't be puppies next season.