Just because the future looks bright for Lindenhurst football didn't make it any easier to deal with the gloom of Friday's loss in the school's first Long Island Championships appearance.
"Any time you don't play a competitive game, it's a disappointment,'' Bulldogs coach Nick Lombardo said after his team fell to Syosset, 35-13, in the Long Island Class I game at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium. "We just didn't make the plays we'd been making all year.''
The game turned against the Bulldogs (9-3) on the final play of the first quarter. They had just marched from their 5-yard line to the Syosset 22, as junior quarterback Ryan Hofmann completed five third-down passes. But on fourth-and-3, junior running back Joe Barber was stopped at the 20 after a 2-yard gain.
After a 19-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 8:34, after all that effort, after all that time of possession, all Lindenhurst had to show for it was zero points.
"That drive was big. We couldn't get that last first down,'' Lombardo said. "That played a major role in the game. After that, we stopped making plays.''
Barber shook free for a 72-yard touchdown on the final play of the game, but before that, he was held to 28 yards rushing. That was indicative of Lindenhurst's struggles the entire game to be two-dimensional on offense. The Bulldogs wound up with 104 yards rushing, but only 32 before the final play.
"Give credit to their defense. They stopped us,'' Lombardo said. "We just couldn't run the ball.''
It still was a game at the half, with Syosset leading only 15-0. But the Braves (8-4) marched 65 yards for a touchdown to open the second half and broke open the game on Lindy's next possession on Michael Panvini's 62-yard pick-6.
Without a successful running back to balance the offense, Hofmann threw three of his four interceptions in the second half, when he managed only 14 yards passing. He finished 18-for-35 for 134 yards. Backup Sean Varela threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to 6-5 freshman Jeremy Ruckert (six receptions, 53 yards).
Hofmann, Barber, Ruckert and starting backs Joe Palmeri (five receptions, 27 yards) and Gino Bonagura will return next year.
"We lose most of our line, but our skill kids are back,'' Lombardo said. "We have a lot to look forward to. We were presented with an opportunity this year and we seized it to win our first outright county championship. I hope we've started something here.''