There is nothing soft about Jake Trovato’s game. He runs like a bull. He is a devastating open-field tackler. He does everything and does it well.
When the Half Hollow Hills East defense smothered him in a first half in which he ran for 6 yards on six carries, he basically questioned his own toughness.
"I thought am I not running hard enough," he said.
That was not the case.
Trovato picked it up when Lindenhurst needed him most. He ripped off a 44-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run over left tackle and set the tone for an epic second-half comeback as Lindenhurst reeled off 17 unanswered points and came back to beat Half Hollow Hills East, 17-13, in a Suffolk Division II football game Friday night.
Trovato’s scoring run and the extra-point kick by Igor Rzasa gave the Bulldogs a 14-13 lead with 9:28 left. Rzasa added a 27-yard field goal with 3:09 remaining for the final margin.
Trailing by two scores, the Lindenhurst comeback started with a 13-play, 55-yard third-quarter scoring drive. Halfback Thomas Wrightington scored from a yard out and Rzasa added the kick to make it 13-7 with 3:50 left in the third quarter.
"This was a comeback of character," Lindenhurst coach Nick Lombardo said. "We were down two scores and our guys never gave up. That’s what makes Lindenhurst football special. We battle to the end."
Hills East and Lindenhurst waged a defensive battle through a first half in which neither team gained a first down in their first four possessions.
But it was the fifth Hills East drive that started deep in its own end at the 18 that ultimately enabled the Thunderbirds to find their rhythm.
Senior quarterback Jacob Robinson engineered an 11-play, 82-yard march in which he completed 5 of 7 passes for 73 yards to set up Dakim Griffin’s 7-yard scoring run. Gianni D’Agnese added the extra point kick and the Thunderbirds led 7-0 with 2:42 left in the half.
Robinson keyed the drive with some clutch throws. He connected with Shane Patterson for 20 yards for a Thunderbirds first down at the 40-yard line. It was their initial first down in the game. On fourth and 2 from the Bulldogs’ 28, he completed a pass to Morgan Talifiero, who got behind the secondary to the 7-yard line.
Robinson finished the first half completing 8 of 16 passes for 84 yards.
The Lindenhurst offense never got untracked through a miserable first half. The Bulldogs were shut down by the speedy Hills East defense. They managed 75 totals yards in 26 plays and two first downs.
And then Hills East opened the second half in spectacular fashion.
Less than one minute into the third quarter on the second play from scrimmage, Griffin bolted through the first line of defense over right tackle and raced 63 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was missed, and the Thunderbirds held a 13-0 lead with 11:01 left in the third quarter.
"He’s always a big play threat on every play," Lombardo said of Griffin.
Hills East drove to the Bulldogs 15 with 1:13 left and a jarring hit forced the ball from Robinson’s grip. The fumble was recovered by who else — Jake Trovato — to seal the win.