Garden City's James Sullivan reacts after a fumble gives the...

Garden City's James Sullivan reacts after a fumble gives the ball back to the Trojans in the second quarter of a Nassau II semifinal against Wantagh at Hofstra on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. Credit: James Escher

There was silence in the Garden City locker room at halftime. Well, the players didn't say much, anyway. The coaches? Well let's just say they weren't pleased with the first half performance, especially by the offense.

"It was a rough first half," defensive end Brian Goepfert said.

"The coaches sent us a message at halftime," running back/linebacker James Sullivan said, grinning to acknowledge that the coaches most certainly were not silent.

The cleaned-up version of the coaches' pep talk: "Keep your composure and play your game," Sullivan said.

Message received -- loud and clear. Garden City scored on its first three possessions of the third quarter, played lockdown defense all day and rolled to a 41-0 victory over Wantagh Saturday in a Nassau II semifinal played at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium. The Trojans surrendered just 79 yards of total offense, racking up six sacks, three by Goepfert, and 10 tackles for losses.

Hard to believe it was 6-0 at the break, thanks to a pair of field goals of 36 and 33 yards by Gerard Smith, who wound up scoring 11 points. "We stunk in the first half," Garden City coach Tom Flatley said . . . flatly.

It was a fragrant second half, however, beginning with the first play from scrimmage when Brian Haeffner (99 yards on 13 carries) sped 44 yards to key a scoring drive that ended with his 1-yard burst. The defense forced a quick punt and on the first play of the Trojans' second drive, Thomas Wright bolted for 43 yards and quarterback Tim Schmelzinger ran it in from the 3 for another touchdown.

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The defense again shut down Wantagh and this time, the snap on a punt was high and a hurried kick was blocked, giving the Trojans the ball at the Wantagh 9. Two plays later, Schmelzinger hit Brian Colomussic for a 20-yard TD pass. It was 27-0 with 3:39 left in the third quarter and a close game had turned into a laugher.

Garden City (9-1) advanced to the Nassau II final for the sixth straight season and will face unbeaten Carey at 12:30 p.m. next Saturday at Hofstra for the conference championship. Wantagh finished 6-4.

"We couldn't get anything going in the first half," said Sullivan, who had four tackles and a sack plus 48 yards rushing. "But the defense stepped up and did the job. A big sack or a turnover or a third-down stop always gives the offense a little momentum."

Garden City did plenty of all three, limiting Wantagh to just seven first downs and controlling field position all afternoon. "One of our big things all season is to get off the field on third down," Goepfert said. "We put pressure on the quarterback and got the ball back."

It seemed that the Trojans were able to iron out every wrinkle in the Wantagh offense. "The coaches put together a highlight tape of their gadget plays, especially their screens, and we were prepared," Goepfert said. "This was win or go home. The shutout doesn't mean that much; winning the game is what matters."


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