Jeremy Ruckert wanted to leave a lasting impact on Lindenhurst’s football program, and the four-year starter stamped his career by winning the Long Island Class I title as a senior.
In the Class I championship game against Oceanside, he was larger than life when the Bulldogs needed him most.
Ruckert made an acrobatic one-handed catch for a first down. He caught a touchdown pass. He caught a pass in triple coverage. He blocked. He kicked four extra points and two field goals. His kickoffs sailed out of the end zone.
As a defensive end/linebacker, he made tackles for a loss. He intercepted a pass. He blocked a field-goal try and returned it 61 yards to set up a score.
That not only was one game but a season-long story line, and Ruckert was named a co-winner of the 58th Carl A. Hansen Award, given to Suffolk’s top football player, on Monday night at the Suffolk County Football Coaches Association dinner in Hauppauge. He shared the award with Westhampton’s Dylan Laube.
Ruckert and his undefeated Bulldogs ran off a school-record 12 wins, capping a glorious season with a 40-23 victory over Oceanside at Stony Brook University.
“Could Jeremy do anything more to bring a title to Lindenhurst?” coach Nick Lombardo said. “This kid dominated every facet of the game. He willed us to the win.”
Ruckert put on a clinic in his final game that left fans in awe. “He was a leader in every sense of the word,” Lombardo said. “He could have cruised through his senior season with his Ohio State scholarship in hand. But he is a Lindy Bulldog through and through and he loves his hometown. All he talked about was winning an LIC.”
The 6-6, 225-pounder did it all. He had 61 catches for 1,094 yards and 13 touchdowns against double- and triple-teams.
“I knew when we were faced with a third-and-long situation, Jeremy was going to make a big play,” quarterback Nick Anzalone said. “I just needed to get the ball near him and it was his ball.”
Ruckert gave Anzalone, a first-year starter, the confidence to throw into tight spots. “He’s so athletic,’’ Lombardo said. “He has the long reach, strength and he’s also very tough to cover downfield.”
On defense, Ruckert disrupted by coming off the edge. He scored six seconds into a regular-season game against Connetquot when he grabbed a batted pass and returned it for a touchdown. “It could have been the fastest touchdown in Long Island history,” Lombardo said.
Ruckert made 61 tackles, including 13 sacks, and had the leg of an NFL kicker. He made 48 of 50 extra points and six field goals and had 42 touchbacks on kickoffs.
“Without this town, I wouldn’t be where I am today, going to Ohio State. I love this town,” Ruckert said. “My dad grew up here; I grew up here. I bleed green and white.”