Their Long Island-record victory streak was halted, but the Garden City Trojans haven’t stopped chasing the goal of winning a fourth straight county championship. If anything, the Week 7 loss to MacArthur may have sharpened their focus and elevated the Trojans to a new level of motivation.
Garden City tapped into those on Saturday by scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions and then keeping Mepham at arms length the rest of the way for a 41-20 Nassau Conference II semifinal win at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
The Trojans stuffed the Pirates in the fourth quarter, twice stopping them on fourth-down plays and driving for touchdowns on the ensuing possessions.
“They flew to the ball well and showed a lot of fight, but we had better athletes across the field and that made the difference in the long run,” said Pierce Archer, who ran for 198 yards and three touchdowns.
Garden City (9-1) will face MacArthur (10-0) in Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. county championship game. The Trojans will be playing in their 35th Nassau title game and seeking their 24th crown.
“We’ve never taken our eyes off the team we’re playing this week, but getting another shot at [MacArthur] has been in the back of our minds ever since the loss,” Ford Carney said of the 27-7 loss on Oct. 26. Carney ran for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns Saturday.
Garden City opted against going into the middle of the physical Pirates defense and, instead, chose to use their superior speed to the outside. With lineman Christian Sullivan throwing several excellent lead blocks, the Trojans used toss sweeps to Archer and Carney on both sides to roll up 401 rushing yards.
Archer scored on runs of 5, 80 and 32 yards. Carney’s touchdowns came on runs of 33 and 1 yard. Jack Downey also caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Luke Schmitt for Garden City.
“[Archer and Carney] are just awesome to block for,” Sullivan said. “It’s been a lot of fun watching them score.”
But the game played much closer than the final score indicated. Mepham (7-3) led 7-0 early on Kenny Franquiz’ 18-yard touchdown run on the game’s first possession. And after quarterback William Kender’s 7-yard touchdown run with 4:03 left in the third quarter, the margin was just 27-20.
The Pirates got the ball back with a chance to tie it or go ahead, but Kender’s jump pass for Matt Hegi got tipped and intercepted by Carney. Four plays later Downey took Schmitt’s pass into the end zone.
The back breaker came on the ensuing possession. Garden City halted Mepham on a fourth-and-9 just 12 yards from the end zone. Garden City went 88 yards in four plays for Archer’s 32-yard score.
Kender ran for a touchdown and passed for another and Matt Hegi had 131 receiving yards — including a 17-yard touchdown — and was in on 12 tackles for Mepham (7-3).
Archer said it’s been more for the Trojans than just having their 42-game winning streak (tied for the Island’s longest with Floyd’s 42 in 2005-08) that has them looking to Saturday. “I know I didn’t play my best game that day,” Archer said. “A lot of us feel that way and want another shot.”