Timing is everything in a play call — especially a gadget play. Pick the right time and catch the defense off guard and the coach looks like a genius. The wrong time for a play pulled from deep in the playbook could lead to disaster.
Wantagh got it right Saturday.
Wantagh quarterback Jake Castellano, his team in a physical battle against rival Bethpage midway through the third quarter, started the play that turned the game in the Warriors’ favor. Castellano, in shotgun formation, caught the snap on third-and-4, and fired a quick lateral pass into the left flat to 6-4 wide receiver Ryan Murphy.
The sure-handed Murphy caught the pass, stepped back to look over the oncoming defenders and threw a perfect 69-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Anthony D’Onofrio. The double pass gave Wantagh a 17-7 lead in its 24-14 victory over Bethpage in a Nassau Conference III football game before a crowd of more than 1,300 on homecoming day in Wantagh.
“It’s one of my favorite plays and the first time we tried it this year,” Murphy said. “My first look is deep to D’Onofrio and if he’s covered, then I look backside to the receiver coming across the field. The defensive corner and the safety came hard at me and I let it fly to D’Onofrio.”
The Wantagh defense contributed on the very next possession. Bethpage quarterback Jason Seiter, who opened the scoring for the Golden Eagles (1-1) with a 27-yard scoring run on the final play of the first quarter, threw a short pass into the right flat and defensive back Don Schaumloffel jumped the route for a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead with 3:12 left in the third quarter.
“We made some mistakes in the first half and we have to get better in some areas,” Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said. “The Bethpage defense is very aggressive and they chase the ball. So I called the double pass expecting to get a key first down, not hit the home run. And we got the home run.
“And the defensive gem by Schaumloffel was just a simple adjustment on a play that we left open in the first half. He learned from a mistake and executed the play in the second half to create the turnover and score the touchdown.”
Wantagh linebacker Gavin Casey, who had 11 tackles, led a swarming defense that yielded only 74 first-half yards and forced a three-and-out on three possessions.
“Bethpage was even better than last year,” Casey said. “They’re so tough but I thought we won the game in the trenches. We picked it up in the second half.”
Wantagh (2-0) tied the score midway through the second quarter when halfback Tom Rohan, who had 139 yards on 11 carries, took a toss around right end and went on a 35-yard scoring run. Brett Pine kicked the point after to make it 7-7 with 4:53 left in the half.
Wantagh forced a punt after a quick three-and-out and took over at its 45. Six plays later, Pine added a 20-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the half for the 10-7 lead.
“We put together some time-consuming drives in the second half,” Rohan said. “The line did a great job.”