Longwood is known for its defense, but Friday night the offense was the difference in a victory over Connetquot.
Khalil Owens rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns in the Lions' 42-35 victory.
Trailing by three touchdowns in the first half, Connetquot rallied in the second half, but never got the lead. And with the final kneel down of the game, the home crowd let out a collective sigh of relief.
Owens scored from 30 yards on fourth-and-8 in the fourth for what would be the deciding touchdown.
The funny thing about that? Owens had left the game earlier with what appeared to be a right leg injury. Longwood coach Jeff Cipp didn't even know he was back on the field until he looked up and saw Owens celebrating.
"I didn't even know he was back in, and he scored," Cipp said about Owens. "He has a lot of heart, and he plays like a champion."
The Lions' defense entered play as arguably the top unit in Suffolk I but allowed Connetquot to claw back after shutting out Jack Cassidy and Co. in the first half.
The highlight of the evening was a 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown by defensive end Josh Rivers in the second quarter that pushed the score to 21-0. After the snap was fumbled, Rivers scooped the ball off the turf and didn't think twice about taking off.
"Coach teaches us in practice that scoop and score is the first thing we do when we see a fumble," said Rivers, who also had a sack. "That was the first thing on my mind."
Rivers led a stingy first-half defense that allowed only six points. But the second half was a far different story.
Connetquot scored four touchdowns in the second half, including three by running back Jack Richardson.
After a three-and-out by the Thunderbirds (4-3) early in the third quarter, Cassidy punted and the ball was downed at Longwood's 2-yard line. The ensuing snap was fumbled and Willie Gonzalez fell on the ball in the end zone to make it 28-14.
But Longwood (6-1) answered as Owens scampered in from 7 yards to push the lead to 35-14 midway through the third quarter.
Cipp said he changed his defense at the half, playing with a two-man front in order to drop nine into coverage and make things difficult for Cassidy.
"We came together as a team this week," Rivers said. "We love one another through the tough times. We just worked through it."