West Islip wide receiver Joe Valentino lined up to the right of quarterback Jake Guercio. The defensive back lined up inside contain in the North Babylon coverage scheme on Valentino to take away the slant pattern.
West Islip was faced with a fourth down and goal from the Bulldogs 9 with 2:57 remaining in what was a terrific slugfest of a Suffolk Division II football game Saturday.
North Babylon had forged a four-point lead earlier in the fourth quarter on the strength of Brandon Sobotker’s third touchdown run. West Islip responded with its longest drive of the afternoon, keyed by a well-executed fake punt on a fourth down and 7 run that went for 31 yards by Drew Cestaro.
“They had inside coverage so I threw a hard fake to the corner and the safety bit on the move,” said the 6-4, Valentino. “It gave me inside leverage and Jake hit me right in the numbers for the touchdown.”
Guercio’s touchdown strike allowed West Islip to get past North Babylon for a 24-21 win before a crowd of more than 1,500 in West Islip. The win allowed West Islip to move to 4-0 and sent North Babylon (3-1) to its first loss.
“Words cannot explain what was going through my mind on that final play,” Guercio said. “He ran a great route. This was such a big win for us on so many levels. The special teams, the defense and the offense all came through when they needed to.”
The Lions drove 80 yards in 15 plays before the winning toss, their longest drive prior to the final march only went seven plays and resulted in a Kevin DiCapua 24-yard field goal for a 17-14 lead on the final play of the third quarter.
“We changed formations and gave them some different looks,” said Guercio, who rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries. “They’re defense was so tough.”
After falling behind 14-0, the North Babylon defense limited the Lions to nine yards and no first downs on the next five possessions.
West Islip took the lead when Guercio found Antonio Alicea for a 41-yard touchdown in the first quarter Guercio added a 56-yard scoring with 11:01 left in the second quarter and then the Lions offense was shut down.
“We made a couple of defensive mistakes and it cost us,” North Babylon coach Terry Manning said. “We’ll be alright. We were right there, doing what we do, running our offense out of a phone booth against another team in the spread.”
North Babylon pounded the Lions front and sprung Sobotker loose late in the second quarter for a 73-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7. Sobotker also contributed on defense. His interception and subsequent 2-yard scoring run four plays later tied the score at 14 with 3:56 left in the third quarter.
“All the momentum was going their way,” West Islip coach Steve Mileti said. “That’s a heck of a football team and we knew that coming in.”
Mileti made a gutsy call with 5:46 left in the game. With his defense reeling and the offense facing a fourth down and 7, he chose to go with the fake punt from his own 39 instead of giving the ball back to North Babylon. Cestaro went around left end for 31 yards and a first down to the Bulldogs 30 to key the winning drive.
“We saw it on the films that we could use the fake,” Mileti said.
And then it was left to the West Islip defense in the final 2:49.
Defensive tackle Tim Mullane took the game over from there. He made three straight tackles before Bulldogs quarterback David Estrella was forced out of bounds short of the first down with 52 seconds left at the West Islip 48 to seal the win.
“They ran away from my side all game,” Mullane said. “I wasn’t allowing them to take it away from us on our home field — it just wasn’t happening.”