Garden City? More like “Gardi City” after what transpired Saturday in the Nassau Conference II championship game at Hofstra.
After building an early 13-point lead, Garden City trailed MacArthur by a point late in the fourth quarter. The Trojans got the ball back with less than four minutes left and moved deep into Generals territory, converting on fourth down once and third down twice. Then, after his team was stopped on third-and-3 at the 11-yard line, Garden City coach Dave Ettinger called on senior Chase Gardi to attempt a 28-yard field goal.
Gardi lined up the kick on the Shuart Stadium turf — the same turf where his grandfather, Joe Gardi, coached the Hofstra football team for 16 seasons — and split the uprights with 34.3 seconds to play to give the Trojans a 16-14 victory.
Ettinger, who was a kicker on one of Gardi’s Hofstra teams, called the set of circumstances “mind-blowing.” The Trojans (10-1) earned their fourth straight Nassau championship and got a measure of payback against the team that ended their winning streak at 42 games in Week 7.
“All week I’ve told [teammates] that if it comes down to me, I will be ready. And even though I’d missed an extra point, I didn’t lose my confidence,” Gardi said. “My whole family is here — my mom and dad and aunt and sister and grandmother — and this was a very special moment for my family.”
Chase’s grandfather passed away in 2010 at the age of 71. Joe Gardi compiled a 119-62-2 record at Hofstra.
With its 24th Nassau County title in hand, Garden City will play in the Long Island Championships for the 18th time. The Trojans will be seeking their ninth Long Island title and fourth in a row when they face Lindenhurst at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the Class II final at Hofstra.
Garden City’s Ford Carney (90 yards on 14 carries) scored on runs of 1 and 62 yards in the second quarter as the Trojans went up 13-0, but MacArthur (10-1) quickly answered with a pair of big plays.
On the first snap after Carney’s second touchdown, Generals quarterback Joe Manfredo threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Dan Calderon. MacArthur held Garden City to a three-and-out, and on its next play from scrimmage, Hugh Kelleher (143 yards on 18 carries) got loose down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown run. Brian Carroll’s kick gave MacArthur a 14-13 lead.
Ettinger made the bold move of giving oft-used reserve quarterback Luke Schmitt his first varsity start, with starting quarterback Holden Overbeck moving to tight end. The sophomore finished 7-for-15 passing for 57 yards and delivered late, completing 3 of 5 passes in the 14-play drive for the game-winner.
“When we had that fourth down in the last drive and [Carney] got the first down, it really started to feel like we were going to win,” Schmitt said.
There were two converted third downs in the drive, and Schmitt was responsible for both. On third-and-7, he completed a 7-yard pass to Liam O’Donohue to the Generals’ 32. On a third-and-4, he pulled back a handoff and went 13 yards to the 13.
“He was completely calm — a true leader,” Carney said.
Kelleher was in on 11 tackles, two for a loss, for the Generals. Billy Kephart had 10 tackles and Christian Sullivan added nine for Garden City.
Sullivan provided the punctuation on the payback with a pair of sacks on the game’s final possession.
“It was a time when big players needed to make big plays,” he said. “When we lost to them, it was a Week 7 loss and the streak ended . . . All I know is I’d rather lose in the regular season than in the county championship.”