Life as a lineman is about sacrifice. They rarely get headlines as skill position players bask in the glow of the spotlight. But make no mistake, without the boys up front, the boys in the back wouldn't be taking the bows.
Northport guard James Clemente anchored an offensive line that ran over Ward Melville on Saturday, 35-21, in a Suffolk Division I football game. Clemente and the O-line cleared the way for Northport to rush for 187 yards on 31 carries as the Tigers built a 35-7 halftime lead.
Northport will host Longwood in a battle of unbeatens Saturday at 2 p.m.
"We play a power offense and pride ourselves on moving the football on the ground," Clemente said. "It's what we do."
Before the Northport offense got on the field, Ward Melville (1-2) opened the scoring with an impressive 16-play, 82-yard drive, capped by a Nick Cervone 7-yard touchdown run. John LaRosa added the kick to make it 7-0 with 4:41 left in the first.
Northport responded with a nine-play, 65-yard march, punctuated by a Ryan Elliott 13-yard scoring run. Ryan Tromblee added the point after and it was 7-7 with 1:57 left. Clemente, who pulled from the left guard position, got out in front of Elliott and cleared the way on a sweep over the right end. His pancake block allowed the back to score untouched.
"He made it easy," Elliott said. "The offensive line as a whole was great."
The defense contributed on Ward Melville's next possession. Quarterback Matt O'Hea pass over the middle was intercepted by safety Dan Preston.
"We struggled with that play with our defense all week," Northport coach Kip Lukralle said. "But he anticipated it well and the timing was there for the interception."
Preston intercepted, hand-bounced himself into an upright position and returned the pick 70 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown.
"I recognized the play from the formation and as soon as the receiver went into the curl route, I moved on him," Preston said. "Give it to our coaches, we were well prepared for that play."
Northport dominated from that point. The Tigers took advantage of two turnovers and scored three touchdowns in the final 1:46 of the first half for a 35-7 lead. Elliott scored on a 21-yard run to finish a nine-play, 62-yard drive for a 21-7 lead with 1:46 left.
The key play came on a third-and-30 run by senior fullback Rob Dosch. He took the handoff on a trap up the middle and went 32 yards for a first down to the Ward Melville 31. Again, it was Clemente with the perfect trap block. "The hole opened and I followed my blocks," said Dosch, who carried 18 times for 111 yards.
On the ensuing kickoff, Enzo D'Angelo recovered a fumble at the Ward Melville 34 and two plays later, John Tabert caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Smith to make it 28-7.
On Ward Melville's next possession, O'Hea, who completed 10 of 16 passes for 101 yards and two interceptions, was stripped and the fumble was recovered by Rob Fontana at the Patriots' 26-yard line with 28 seconds left.
"We took advantage of the turnovers," Lukralle said. "And good teams do that, you make them pay."
They did. Northport closed the half with Preston's 4-yard scoring run for an insurmountable 35-7 lead.
"Our skills guys play outstanding as a group," Lukralle said. "They're a pleasure to coach."
And the line with guards Clemente and Jack Joyce, tackles John Milanesi and Sam Gozelski and center Dylan Adelman-Keller, and tight end Kristian Gerken make it easy on the coach.