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LIC: Andrew DeSantis emerges from shadow to lead Garden City to title

Garden City's Andrew DeSantis discussed how it felt to win the Long Island Class II Championship and his two touchdowns. (Credit: Newsday/Melissa Kramer).

For Andrew DeSantis, touchdowns were for teammates to score — one teammate in particular.

“We figured they’d be keying on Trevor,” DeSantis said. Why not? Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, Garden City’s elusive, electric running back, had scored 29 touchdowns before Friday night’s game.

So DeSantis, always front-and-center on defense, became the Trojans’ secret weapon on offense. He scored on a long run and an even longer pass reception as Garden City pulled away from tough, physical North Babylon, 24-6, in the Long Island Class II championship game before more than 4,500 at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

The victory allowed Garden City to register its second consecutive 12-0 championship season. “It’s amazing to go back-to-back,” DeSantis said, smiling and proudly cradling the championship trophy hard against his body as if it were a football he was not going to fumble.

DeSantis got the party started when he darted through a big hole for a 38-yard touchdown with 6:36 left in the first quarter. “We knew in the jet-mo[tion], they’d be watching Trevor. So we came with the counter,’’ DeSantis said. “It was an awesome feeling. I hadn’t scored a touchdown since the first week.”

DeSantis, a returning All-Long Island defensive player, was injured in Week 2, and when he returned, he was limited to mostly defense until the playoffs. But as he got healthier, Garden City coach Dave Ettinger began finding a place for him in the offense.

“It’s no secret. We expected big things from him before the season,” Ettinger said. “He chose the right time to get involved. On that run, they accounted for Trevor and they accounted for Justin [Coppola, another speedy back]. We didn’t think they had the fullback accounted for.”

North Babylon scored on a 28-yard pass from Ross Tallarico to Qadir Russell with seven seconds left in the half but thereafter was unable to penetrate the Trojans’ defense, which allowed only 70 points all season. Cole Dutton made 12 tackles. James Buckley had eight plus an interception and DeSantis contributed eight tackles.

But it was the Garden City offense that lit up the night in the second half. Yeboah-Kodie (97 yards on 11 carries, 92-yard interception return for a touchdown) demonstrated why the Bulldogs shadowed him, bursting outside and cutting back for a 67-yard run that set up a 26-yard field goal by Steven Spirakis. “It was the same toss play we always use,’’ Yeboah-Kodie said. “I knew I had to cut back to the inside.”

He surprisingly was caught from behind by Russell. “I thought I was gone. Then I saw his shadow,” Yeboah-Kodie said with a grin.

DeSantis struck again, this time as a receiver. Colin Hart made a deft ball fake and delivered an accurate pass to DeSantis wide open down the middle. He coasted to a 60-yard touchdown and a 17-6 lead.

“We ran the play a couple of times in practice. I wasn’t sure we’d use it,” DeSantis said. “When I caught it, I just ran my [butt] off to the end zone.”

Then came the perfect exclamation point to a perfect season. North Babylon, forced to abandon its run-first-last-and-always offense, tried a deep pass from the Garden City 40, but Yeboah-Kodie made a leaping interception of Tallarico’s heave at the 8. He emerged from a cluster of tacklers with a series of swivels and stutter-steps, angled to the right sideline, leaped over the last tackler and was gone. He decelerated near the end zone to allow some teammates to catch up for a raucous celebration after a Long Island Championships-record 92-yard pick-6.

DeSantis wasn’t among the revelers. “I wanted to run down there and celebrate,’’ he said, “but I was too tired.”

Scoring touchdowns can be exhausting.

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