Garden City senior John Wotczak is the epitome of a coaches dream. The two-way starter does whatever is necessary to help the Trojans win. Yesterday the big man was asked to move from the defensive line to linebacker in an attempt to shut down the vaunted Wantagh offense.
Wotczak responded with a virtuoso performance.
"He was all over the field," Garden City coach Dave Ettinger said. "He made some huge tackles."
Wotczak's sack on a fourth down and inches run at the Garden City 43 halted a Wantagh drive and set the tone for the Trojans' 28-18 win in a Nassau Conference I football game in Wantagh.
"I played linebacker in junior high and the coaches moved me to the line in high school," Wotczak said. "And now the coaches moved me back to linebacker. I love it and as long as we win, I'm happy."
Garden City (7-0) capitalized on a Wantagh miscue on the first drive. The Warriors were in punt formation and the long snap was bobbled by punter Ryan DeVito, who was tackled by Andrew DeSantis for a 14-yard loss at the Wantagh 22.
Four plays later, Garden City halfback Brian Haeffner scored on a 2-yard run and Bill Rousakis added the kick for a 7-0 lead with 6:16 left.
"That was the first of too many mistakes," Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said. "We didn't establish our offense and gave them field position and an early lead."
Wantagh (5-2) answered on the next possession. The Warriors marched 65 yards in five plays capped by a Bruno Surace 13-yard touchdown run. Surace, who finished with 90 yards on 14 carries, bulled his way through the secondary and carried a tackler into the end zone. The extra-point kick was blocked and Garden City held a 7-6 lead with 3:53 left in the first quarter.
Garden City answered with a methodical 14-play, 49-yard drive to the Warriors' 20. But a fourth-down pass was dropped, turning the ball over on downs.
Wantagh moved the ball to the Trojans' 43 and needed less than a foot for a first down when Wotczak made the play that both coaches thought was the turning point in the game. On fourth down, Tucker went on a hard count and couldn't pull the disciplined Garden City front off sides. When he took the snap, Wotczak charged through the gap between guards and center and sacked Tucker for a 4-yard loss.
"I blitzed the A gap and grabbed his jersey," Wotczak said. "Our coaches deserve the credit they called the blitz and had me in the right spot."
The teams then traded interceptions.
The Wantagh defense halted a Garden City drive at the 3-yard line when Beckwith intercepted a deflected pass with 3:03 left in the half. But the Warriors turned the ball over on the next play when Tucker dropped back into his end zone and fired down the field where he was intercepted by sophomore Tyler Wuchte.
Four plays later, quarterback Tim Schmelzinger scored on a sneak for a 14-6 halftime lead. "All the credit goes to our offensive line," Schmelzinger said. Garden City took control of the game on the first drive of the third quarter. The Trojans drove 69 yards in 11 plays before Haeffner went over the left side from 3 yards out for the touchdown for a 21-6 lead.
"It was important to set the tone for the second half," said Haeffner, who had 113 yards on 22 carries.
Erik Wortmann recovered the ensuing kick at the Wantagh 38 and Garden City capitalized with another Schmelzinger 1-yard scoring run.
"This was the biggest win of the year," Schmelzinger said.