As Lindenhurst emerged from the locker room at halftime at Centereach, none of the Bulldogs could have imagined they’d need a big play late in the game to remain unbeaten. However, that’s exactly how it transpired and Jack Hogan was there to deliver for them.
Hogan broke through the Cougars’ line and had a clear view of the Centereach punter. He made a full-extension dive and got the block. Will Ruckert made the recovery at the Cougars’ 27-yard line and four snaps later Hogan took the ball in for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-point lead with just under three minutes to play.
Lindenhurst gave up another score but gained just enough yardage on the ensuing possession to run the clock and pull out a 28-21 Suffolk Division II win. Next up for the Bulldogs (5-0) is a showdown against West Islip (5-0), but from the faces they wore walking to the team bus, it was hard to tell they’d just tasted victory.
“We didn’t do the little things and when you don’t do the little things, you give up 21 points, which is not expected or acceptable,” Ruckert said. “I do not like a seven-point win. It’s not good enough.”
“I feel like we haven’t scratched the surface of what we are capable of doing as a team,” Lindy coach Nick Lombardo said. “Once we do that, we’ll feel a lot better.”
Bulldogs quarterback Jack Randazzo was 10-for-19 passing for 167 yards and an 18-yard touchdown to Nicholas Vezzi. Jack Winey and Jake Trovato each had short scoring runs and Nick Passamonte had another blocked punt for Lindenhurst. The Bulldogs took advantage of both blocked punts to start TD drives.
Centereach (2-3) managed only one first down before halftime — on a Lindenhurst penalty — but returned to the field with a revived offense. Quarterback Justin Robbert was 1-for-9 passing in the first half, but got it going after the break when he completed 7 of 13 passes for 190 yards, including a 56-yard TD to Liam Webber and a 33-yard scoring pass to Matt Robbert. Eric Harrington added 61 yards on the ground including a 9-yard score on 21 carries for the game.
Webber’s score made it 14-7 early in the third quarter. Lindy answered with Randazzo’s TD pass to Vezzi, but early in the fourth quarter the Cougars (2-3) struck back with Harrington’s TD. Hogan’s plays late in the fourth quarter finally allowed the Bulldogs to exhale.
“I think it’s pretty cool being in those late plays because those eventually did win us the game,” Hogan said, “but we definitely should have done a better job on defense stopping them before that. We should have finished them off and not let them stay in the game.”
“We’re walking out of here happy, but not in our effort, not in our effort,” Lombardo said. “Centereach is a really tough, gritty team [that] made some plays. I don’t want to take anything away from what they did, for sure, but we made a lot of mistakes and they capitalized . . . We’re playing in a [division] where you’ve got to play better every week and I’m not sure that happened this week.”