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Freeport tops Floyd for LI Class I football title

Freeport defeated Floyd, 28-14, in the Class I Long Island Championship at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium, on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (Newsday/Owen O'Brien)

Freeport’s quick-strike offense was in full effect Friday. Team speed and a wide array of playmakers contributed in the first half as the Red Devils scored on their first four possessions and beat Floyd, 28-14, to claim the Long Island Class I title before a crowd of more than 3,000 at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

Three of Freeport’s four first-half touchdowns capped drives of less than a minute as the Red Devils won their fifth Class I title in seven appearances and first since 2010. Floyd, making its 10th appearance, won its last crown in 2012.

Floyd middle linebacker Michael Bradley offered his respect at the end of the trophy presentation and personally congratulated some of the Freeport players.

“The speed of that team was unbelievable and Rashad Tucker is the best player I’ve ever played against,” Bradley — who had seven tackles and a forced fumble — said of Freeport’s quarterback. “He caught me with a few jukes out there. They just jumped on us early and we never recovered. But I’m proud of my brothers and how we played in the second half.”

Tucker, who passed for 124 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 97 yards and a TD, fired into the flat to wide receiver Jaelin Hood, who picked up a crushing block from Nicolas Olivier and raced 44 yards for the opening score. The three-play drive took 41 seconds and set the tone for a lopsided half.

“I’ve coached some great athletes, but no one has made me look this good,” Freeport coach Russ Cellan said of Tucker. “I could call a bad play and Rashad would turn it into a great play. He created space and thus he created yardage and big plays. I’ve never seen anything like him and I may never see anyone like him again. He’s just extraordinary.”

Freeport (11-1) took a 13-0 lead when halfback Aaje Grayson capped a seven-play, 51-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run with 3:48 left in the first quarter. Halfback Jahred Wray keyed the drive with a 22-yard run.

“We were moving them off the ball or bouncing it outside,” Tucker said. “We have more than one offensive weapon.”

Floyd (10-2) responded with one of its long, methodical scoring drives. The Colonials went 77 yards in eight plays and junior halfback James Taitt scored on a 3-yard run. Sophomore Nick Silva (99 yards, 15 carries) set up the score with a 48-yard run. Sebastian Paniccia’s kick made it 13-7 with five seconds left in the first quarter.

Freeport immediately answered Floyd’s touchdown, needing all of 14 seconds to find the end zone again. Hood beat the secondary on a fly pattern and Tucker found him in stride for a 49-yard touchdown. Grayson’s two-point conversion run gave the Red Devils a 21-7 lead with 11:51 left in the half.

“He couldn’t have thrown it any better,” said Hood, who had four receptions for 114 yards. “I didn’t have to slow down at all. It was perfect.”

After another three-and-out by Floyd, Freeport scored on a three-play, 60-yard drive that took 58 seconds for a 28-7 halftime lead. Wray’s 16-yard run set up Tucker’s 17-yard touchdown.

“We didn’t keep the first half close, and that was our plan,” Floyd coach Paul Longo said. “We had to eliminate the big plays and then wear them down in the second half. They were so quick, and not just one guy.”

Floyd held Freeport scoreless through the second half and climbed to within 28-14 with 1:50 left in the game. Robert Taiani completed all six of his passes on the drive, including the final toss of 16 yards to Nikko Rodriguez for the score. Taiani went 12-for-20 for 126 yards and one interception.

“I have so much respect for Floyd,” Cellan said. “They played hard until the end. That’s what good teams do.”


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