Garden City varsity football players, from left, Billy Kephart, Christian...

Garden City varsity football players, from left, Billy Kephart, Christian Sullivan, Holden Overbeck and Ford Carney pose for a portrait at Garden City LIRR Train Station on Saturday, August 24, 2019. Credit: James Escher

After capturing three consecutive Long Island football championships while riding a 36-game winning streak, it’s safe to say that Nassau II opponents are more than just a little envious of Garden City.

“Everyone wants to beat Garden City,” said Wantagh coach Keith Sachs. “Garden City has been exceptional. When you sit back and really look at what they’ve accomplished, it’s daunting. We all want the consistency that they’ve developed.”

The Garden City football program has been in a class of its own since 2015, losing only once in 46 games

The analytics of the Garden City streak can be numbing when you consider 35 of their 36 consecutive wins are by double digits. And the streak fully supports the cliché that, “defense wins championships” as the Trojans allowed one touchdown or fewer in 26 of those victories.

“Our guys are intelligent and disciplined and they understand team defense,” said Garden City coach Dave Ettinger. “The coaches do a great job in the details and the execution of our defense. And when everyone does their job, it’s tough to score on us.”

That defensive philosophy has contributed to Garden City winning every game over the past two years by at least three touchdowns — a streak of 24 consecutive blowouts — including LI Class II wins over North Babylon and Lindenhurst.

“Our defense forces turnovers and creates scoring opportunities,” Ettinger said. “And we control field position, which forces opponents into longer drives.”

The Trojans’ last loss came in the 2015 conference semifinal playoff game as Wantagh, with some tricky offense and stout goal line defense, scored an 18-13 victory.. The Trojans were 9-0 at the time and had beaten Wantagh, 28-14, during the regular season.

It is the lone loss in Ettinger’s four years at the helm His coaching career record stands at 45-1, the one loss by five points.

“It was my first year and I was coming in after Tom Flatley, who is a legendary coach, and I wanted to sustain that high level of success,” Ettinger said. “I learned so much from him. He was the master. And I felt my job was to keep the train on the tracks and keep it rolling. The first interview I ever did was about keeping that winning tradition going.”

The disappointment of that first loss for Ettinger only fueled his desire to return to the Nassau title game and ultimately to the big show in the LIC. The Trojans haven’t tasted defeat in three years and could break Floyd’s Long Island winning streak record of 42 if they can keep the momentum going. .

Ettinger points to the Garden City Thunder’s youth program as a key factor in the success of the program. The Thunder has provided a pivotal feeder system that fuels the Trojans’ ability to reload instead of rebuilding every season.

“We have a fantastic relationship with our youth program,” Ettinger said. “We mentor the young players with appearances by our coaches and players at Friday workouts and Sunday games. We want the younger players to get excited about our middle school and high school programs. They’re fundamentally sound when our JV coach Bob DeFliese starts to mold them.”

Garden City’s defensive coordinator Steve Finnell was also a part of the Trojans 30-game win streak under Flatley from 1990-1992. His squad has posted 11 shutouts in the past three years and limited opponents to an average of 6.7 points per game.

Don Makofske, the offensive coordinator, has molded the offense around a bevy of athletic players and two different quarterbacks to average 36.4 points per game during the three-year streak. And he had super halfback Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, who amassed 2,820 yards rushing and 48 touchdowns over the past two years.

“Finnell and Makofske plug in the right guys and teach them the system,” Ettinger said. “Special teams coach Ray Chaputian also works with our secondary and strength coach Ryan Boelsen has been instrumental in getting our guys stronger.”

Garden City doesn’t participate in the 7-on-7 tournaments, but it has spent the past 20 years building camaraderie at Camp Wah-Nee for four days in August in Torrington, Connecticut.

“The championships were won by all different players,” Ettinger said. “These guys coming in this year aren’t 36-0 or 12-0, they’re 0-0. We’re replacing nine guys on offense and nine on defense. There’s pressure because everyone wants to beat us. Our guys will have to follow the lead of the guys before them and win through execution.”

Garden City has earned the respect of coaches across Long Island. They’ve been to the LIC 16 times, winning a Long Island record seven titles.

Ettinger said another loss is inevitable.

“The first loss won’t be devastating,” he said. “It’s going to happen at some point. Maybe this year, maybe not. If it does, we’ll deal with it. If it’s the last game of the season, that’ll be very hard. If we lose early, we’ll break it down and make the adjustments to come back better in the rematch.”

The offense is well-oiled and efficiently managed. The coaching staff has learned to strategize and adapt to the skillset on the current roster. Some years the passing attack was unstoppable and others it was the run game. In other years, the Trojans relied on field position and suffocating defense. Garden City always seems to be the team to beat. It is the gold standard in Long Island’s Class II.


The streak

36 games

3 Long Island Championships

Outscored opponents 36.4-6.7

35 double-digit margins of victory

11 shutouts

Also of note

45-1 since 2015, which coach Dave Ettinger took over.

Winning percentage of .922 since 2010

Team won 30 games in row between 1990-92.

n Garden City is one of only four programs to win three straight Long Island championships. The other three are Floyd, Shoreham-Wading River and North Babylon.

n Garden City is the only team to ever win three consecutive LIC’s with perfect 12-0 records.

n Garden City’s winning streak is a Nassau-record 36 games, the second longest in Long Island history. Floyd won 42 in a row from 2005-2008.

n Garden City won 35 of its 36 wins by double digits.

n Garden City has won by at least three touchdowns in its last 24 wins, including LI Class II wins over North Babylon and Lindenhurst.

n Garden City head coach Dave Ettinger is 45-1 in four seasons.

n Garden City had a 30-game win streak between 1990-1992.

n Garden City’s defense has 11 shutouts and allowed 6.7 points per game during the streak.

n Garden City’s offense has averaged 36.4 points per game during the streak.

n Garden City has been to the LIC a Long Island record 16 times, with seven wins.

n Garden City’s record from 2010-2018 is 95-8 for a .922 winning percentage.

n Garden City’s record from 2000-2009 is 85-16-2 for an .835 winning percentage.

n Garden City’s record from 1990-1999 is 89-12-4 for an .867 winning percentage.

n Only four players have won three LIC titles for Garden City. Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, Colin Hart, Justin Coppola and Danny Bocafola.

n Despite the long winning streak Garden City’s last Rutgers Trophy was in 2005. Hmmm!

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