There are some truths that come with growing up a football player in Titletown, Long Island.
If you dedicate yourself to the game, you will have a chance to take the baton and be a part of Garden City’s unmatched tradition. And if you get that chance, don’t drop that baton.
The 2023 Trojans still have a secure grip on it Saturday after overwhelming fifth-seeded New Hyde Park in a 35-0 Nassau II semifinal triumph at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. Senior running back and defensive back Michael Berkery rushed for 116 yards and four touchdowns and made an interception as Garden City (10-0) scored on all of its first five possessions and rolled to its 40th straight win.
The Trojans will line up against second-seeded Carey in Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. county championship game and will be seeking its eighth straight Nassau crown and 28th overall.
“When you play at Garden City you’re playing for your team and all the teams before you and the everyone who has been a part of the program,” Berkery said. “You’re two things at once: confident you’ll win but [cautious] not to be the ones who let everyone down.”
“You come to the games as a kid, lie on the turf with your friends and watch them dominate and think about being a part of it,” senior quarterback Carson Kraus said. “Garden City wins. We can’t lose.”
So how exactly do these Trojans keep that firm grip on the baton?
“You can’t think about the pressure,” junior wideout Blake Cascadden said. “You’re playing football with your lifelong friends.”
Garden City coach Dave Ettinger added, “This team works very hard, the senior leadership is outstanding and they really [apply] themselves. They want to be as prepared as they can be.”
After stopping New Hyde Park (6-4) cold on the game’s opening drive, the Trojans needed five snaps to go 52 yards for a Berkery 1-yard touchdown. After another three-and-out, they needed five snaps to go 46 yards for a Cascadden 3-yard touchdown run. Berkery ended the next Gladiators possession with an interception and on the next play he went 62 yards for his second score.
NHP fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Owen Wuchte recovered on the Gladiators’ 13 and two plays later Berekry raced in from the 9.
Garden City’s defense got one more three-and-out and then went 80 yards in three plays for an 8-yard Berkery TD run. That drive featured the play of the game: a spectacular leaping one-handed Cascadden catch off a Kraus pass that he took 79 yards to the NHP 1 before being caught from behind by Anthony LaSala.
“He’s some athlete,” Ettinger said of Cascadden.
As high-flying as the Trojans offense is, their defense has quietly been exceptional. This was their fourth straight shutout and the unit is allowing only 2.7 points per game.
“Defense is important at this point in the season,” Kraus said. “When the other team doesn’t score, you’re going to be winning games.”