Haggart has Sayville tuned up for Lynbrook
In his most recent performance, Sayville sophomore virtuoso John Haggart carried the ball 33 times and scored the game-winning touchdown in triple overtime. He made two sacks. He blocked an extra point, had one blocked, kicked two others, missed a field goal and punted six times.
He didn't perform at halftime, but he could have. The least idle member of the Suffolk County Division III champions was the winner of the school's recent Sayville Idol contest. Yes, Haggart sings, too.
Coach Rob Hoss offered proof at practice on Monday night. He scrolled through his iPhone menu until he found a video taken in the fading light of an early evening practice. Haggart is standing alone, facing his teammates, and competently singing the familiar words of Jon Bon Jovi's anthem.
Ohhhh, we're halfway there
Oh oh, livin' on a prayer
The Golden Flashes were living on a dare. Hoss told them they could avoid extra wind sprints with this Haggart challenge: He punts to a lineman who makes the catch; or, he kicks two of three field goals from 30 yards; or, he sings a solo.
Sayville's song-and-(sack)- dance man, rushed for 119 yards, including five straight carries for the final 20 yards in the third overtime session that produced a 26-20 victory over Islip Thursday night and a spot opposite Lynbrook in the Long Island Class III title game on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Hofstra.
Haggart also played the entire game at defensive end for the first time in his career. Previously, he was only used in third-down passing situations. "We knew we had to contain [Islip quarterback Jeffrey] Craig," Hoss said, of the player who led a 41-14 victory over Sayville in Week 6. "Craig is shifty and he's fast, but we knew John would be the fastest kid on the field."
Haggart, 6-1, 195, is also a track star, specializing in the 100 meters. That speed and accompanying strength has helped him gain 1,133 yards and score 20 touchdowns. But he had never put those attributes to such prolonged use on defense. "Because of Craig, I was in there to rush the edge. Every time he went back to pass, I tried to tackle him. If he ran my way, I was the contain guy."
His two sacks and relentless pressure limited Craig's damage. Offensively, he was the perfect complement to the passing of quarterback Steven Ferreira. "It was a fun experience to play both sides of the ball," Haggart said. "It was stressful. It was definitely tiring, but I dealt with it."
With the exception of the kickoff and punt return teams, Haggart didn't come off the field against Islip. But in overtime, he still had plenty of energy. After Islip scored first, Haggart blocked the extra point. He then scored on a 9-yard run, but had his game-winning extra point try blocked. "I couldn't believe that," he said.
Neither team scored in the second OT, but it was memorable for Haggart's first lost fumble of the season. "I got angry. I was determined to win it after that," Haggart said. Sure enough, after Islip failed to score on its possession in the third OT, Haggart burrowed into the end zone from two yards out for the draining but satisfying victory.
"I've never been in a game like that in my life," Haggart said. "Everybody wanted to win so badly. It was for redemption. After the touchdown, I took my helmet off and let out a yell. It was amazing. Awesome."
Those are the same words Hoss has used to sing the praises of his precocious player who shared the running back chores early in the season. "He's only a sophomore so we groomed him before we unleashed him," Hoss said. "He's a track kid who's fast, but he had to learn how to run. He was impatient. He would beat his blockers to the hole."
When Hoss decided to use Haggart both ways against Islip, he admitted, "I was a little worried he'd lose a little offensively." Not to worry, coach. Just listen . . .
Oh oh, livin' on a prayer
Take my hand, we'll make it I swear