Jesse DiStasio darted across the West Islip secondary, turning a seam rout into a deep slant. Centereach quarterback Jay Morwood, rolling to his right and away from the heavy blind side pressure, pivoted and rifled a pass toward DiStasio.
The senior wide receiver caught the pass at the West Islip 2-yard line with defensive back Joe Rota, who had two interceptions earlier, in tight coverage all over him. DiStasio turned and lunged toward the end zone and stretched both arms over the goal line for a 20-yard touchdown.
The score set in motion a dizzying celebration as Centereach completed a remarkable 34-31 come-from-behind win over West Islip in overtime Saturday before a crowd of more than 1,100. The Cougars erased a 28-0 third quarter deficit.
“I saw the safety over the top of the defense and I sliced my rout in front of him and Jay made the perfect throw,” said DiStasio, who had eight catches for 55 yards. “The defender was behind me and broke on the pass but it was thrown where only I could catch it. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”
West Islip’s Bobby DiCapua had nailed a 32-yard field goal to give the Lions the 31-28 lead in overtime before DiStasio’s big catch.
Morwood, who completed 19 of 34 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns and a two-point conversion, had the hot hand in the fourth quarter, throwing for three touchdowns.
“We had a chance to pull out a win against North Babylon and lost on the final play,” Morwood said. “I wasn’t letting that happen again. We had all the momentum and we never quit.”
It was all about West Islip through the first three quarters. Quarterback Mike LaDonna, who rushed for 191 yards on 22 carries, scored all four of the Lions’ touchdowns and DiCapua added the four kicks for a 28-0 lead with 7:16 left in the third quarter.
“We were in complete control and then the momentum turned,” said West Islip coach Steve Mileti. “They made a couple of really big plays with the kickoff return and then the tipped pass for a touchdown. And that gave them life.”
Trailing 28-0 and with half the crowd leaving what seemed to be a blowout, Centereach junior Devin Demetres breathed life into the Cougars. He broke four tackles on his way to a 97-yard kickoff return to make it 28-7.
“I felt like we needed a spark,” said Demetres, after his third kick return for a score this year. “It reminded everyone on our sideline that we have a lot of pride and we weren’t going down without a fight.”
After a West Islip punt, Morwood engineered a 65-yard scoring drive, capped by a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to a leaping Chris Witherspoon in the back of the end zone to make it 28-13 with 9:49 left.
The momentum swing continued when defensive back Alec Kiernan intercepted LaDonna on the Lions next possession at the Cougars’ 41.
“I wasn’t contributing offensively so the interception felt good,” said Kiernan, who was hobbled by an ankle injury. “We were a little embarrassed about the first half and picked each other up in the second half.”
Centereach benefited from a tipped pass on the next drive. Two West Islip defenders collided on a deep pass and deflected the ball directly to Cougars wide receiver Demetres, who went 65 yards for the touchdown to make it 28-20 with 5:50 left.
“Two guys undercut the rout and bumped into each other,” said Demetres, who had four catches for 110 yards and two scores. “And the ball came right to me.”
The Centereach defense stuffed the Lions again and the Cougars took over at their 41.
Morwood led a frenetic 11-play, 59-yard drive punctuated by an 11-yard scoring strike to Demetres down the middle to make it 28-26. Kiernan caught the two-point conversion pass to force overtime.
The key play in the drive came on a fourth-and-10 from the Cougars’ 40. Just as Morwood took a big hit, he dumped a pass to fullback Vin Liotta, who broke two tackles for 14 yards and a first down to keep the march alive.
It was one of the many plays that made the seemingly impossible, possible.