Jake Mellen's passes led Sewanhaka teammates Elijah Smith and Jacques Francois to the "fun zone" nine times this year. So it came as no surprise that in a scoreless tie and with 43 other players from 25 different teams on the roster, he'd choose to go back to the boys who made his senior year so much fun.
"When we score, I go crazy," the quarterback said after the PAL All-Star Game at Mitchel Athletic Complex Thursday morning. "We're used to it, but every time we score, it's crazy. We call it the fun zone. We were in the fun zone."
With 8:31 left in the third quarter, Mellen hit Smith on a slant and he cruised untouched for an 83-yard touchdown, opening the scoring for the Conference II/III Senior All-Stars in their 20-0 win over Conference I/IV.
With nine minutes left in the game, Francois grabbed a high lob on a go route up the right sideline for a 42-yard score and the final margin.
"We have a lot of chemistry because we've played with him for two years now," Francois said. "We know all his audibles and that helped us to win. He audibled [the touchdown] and he just left it up there. It was kind of hard to concentrate, but I still got it."
Mellen, the II/III offensive MVP, provided a much-needed power boost for two teams that, until that point, had been tormented by whipping winds and blustery cold.
There were only 98 yards of total offense in the first half. Before Smith's touchdown, the biggest gain had been a 32-yard pass from Floral Park's Connor Vidasolo, who split time with Mellen, to Joe Grossi (Lynbrook) in the second quarter.
"It was terrible, just terrible," Mellen said. "It was really hard, I'm not going to lie. But in the second half, I took my shirt off because it was too heavy and then the wind was going with us and the ball was flowing better and it was getting a little bit easier."
Lynbrook's Matt Hargadon made a 38-yard interception return on the first play from scrimmage after Smith's touchdown, and Mepham's Chris Durkin scored on a 1-yard dive four plays later to give II/III a 14-0 lead with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
Hargadon, who had three tackles, was named the II/III defensive MVP. Freeport's Shawnee Barrett took offensive honors for the losing team, and Hempstead's Darius Meadors (six tackles) led the defense.
After collecting his plaque with the other three MVPs, Mellen said that despite the win and the chance to make a trip to the fun zone with his teammates one last time, the morning was decidedly bittersweet.
"This is my last high school game and I don't know if I'm playing football in college," he said. "It's definitely sad. We're best friends. We're family."
Added Smith: "It [stinks]. I don't want to leave but I have to move on. It felt great, though, and I was glad to be a part of it."