Lawrence defensive back Keaton Goldsby knew an opportunity might be coming. When it arrived, he seized it.
The Golden Tornado held a narrow upper hand in the final two minutes against host Wantagh and the Warriors had taken over possession deep in their own territory. The hosts were going to have to pass if they wanted to take out Nassau III’s top seed. When Goldsby had an angle on a Peter DelGais pass, he went up and plucked it. Then he ran it back 29 yards for a touchdown to ice Lawrence’s 19-6 season-opening win over the same team it defeated for the county title last season.
“I was prepared for the play,” Goldsby said. “After I came down with it I saw an opening. I caught the pick and I ran it back to the end zone. I was glad to make a big play for us.”
That decisive play was emblematic of the game. Wantagh looked much better than a team that was replacing 20 of 22 starters. But the inexperience was at the root of some of its six turnovers. And Lawrence – whose roster includes several proven dynamic offensive players headlined by quarterback Christian Fredericks and Jordan Alexander – prevailed because it turned three of those into touchdowns.
“I’m quite pleasantly surprised with the way we played defensively. I was expecting a shootout and not a defensive battle,” Lawrence coach Joe Martillotti said. “The offense staggered some, but it was able to step up when we needed it to a few times. . . . Because of the way the defense played, I see us as being ahead of where we expected to be. Our offense cannot help but improve. The points will be there.”
Fredericks was involved in 227 yards of offense and the first two touchdowns. He completed 11 of 27 passes for 160 yards including a 38-yard touchdown pass to Norell Folawiyo in the first quarter and he rushed the ball 20 times for 67 yards including a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
“We wanted to start the season physical and at full-speed and I think we did that, but we owe this win to the play of the defense,” Fredericks said.
The Warriors’ Michael Lombardi rushed for 128 yards on 12 carries, but Wantagh is holding it’s breath a little about him. Lombardi suffered a right knee injury early in the fourth quarter and did not return. Nick Teresky rushed for 79 yards on 12 carries and DelGais put the only Wantagh points on the board with a 1-yard quarterback sneak into the end zone in the second quarter.
Wantagh took the game’s opening possession down to the Golden Tornado 3 only to fumble with Lawrence’s Javon Johnson making the recovery. Lawrence looked good on its first crack with the ball, going 97 yards for the score with Folawiyo scoring the points.
Wantagh cut the one-score margin with a 73-yard drive in the second that included a 33-yard run by Turesky. After DelGais’ sneak, the conversion was wide and it stood at 7-6 at halftime.
Wantagh was very effective on defense in the second half, limiting Lawrence to just 42 yards of offense. But the miscues didn’t stop. A Wantagh fumble with 8:09 left in the third quarter gave Lawrence the ball on its own 23. Fredericks ran for 63 yards and threw for 10 in taking the Golden Tornado back to the end zone. Almost all of his runs were behind the blocking of the 320-pound Johnson including the two-yard score.
““He’s an efficient blocker and 90 percent of the time, you can count on him to knock out the defender,” Fredericks said. “Right behind him is a place you want to be.”
“Our defense stepped up. Offensively we turned it over and showed some of our inexperience but we also showed our potential,” Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said. “This is our program. We have the same goals regardless of the turnover and we expect our guys to be ready. I think we showed we’re going to be there in the end.”