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Long Island gets lift from hook-and-ladder

Long Island's Jude Innocent runs for the touchdown

Long Island's Jude Innocent runs for the touchdown in front of New York City's Tisshun Williams (25) on a run up the sidelines in the first half of the game on Tuesday, June 21, 2016 Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

It started with a whisper and ended with a lot of shouting.

“In the interest of full transparency (Rob) Blount whispered in my ear, ‘You might want to try the flick,’ “ a grinning Rob Hoss said after a trick play in the third quarter electrified the crowd at Tuesday night’s Empire Challenge at Hofstra and gave a jolt to the Long Island offense.

So the always creative Sayville coach, who was the offensive coordinator for Long Island, took the advice of Oceanside’s Blount, the running backs coach, and reached deep into the playbook and called Pittsburgh 509-flick — otherwise known as the old hook-and-ladder.

With 10:00 left in the third quarter, Long Island trailed 20-14 and faced a fourth-and-12 at the New York City 22. Quarterback Ryan Klemm (Newfield) drilled a pass to Mike Elardo (Syosset) on the left sideline for a 5-yard gain . . . short of a first down but that was by design. Elardo avoided the charging cornerback and tossed to trailing running back Jude Innocent (Roosevelt) who tightroped down the sideline for another 17 yards and a touchdown that tied the game.

The Long Island sideline erupted and jubilant Long Island players pounded Innocent in the end zone. “It felt like the whole team was jumping on me. We were thrilled that it actually worked.”

Hoss said given the down-and-distance, “We figured the corner would bail (play off Elardo) and he would have the hitch. Then we knew they couldn’t cover the back out of the backfield.”

Elardo said he had to sell the play by planting his foot hard and coming back to the ball. “I ran right at the corner to get a little separation. My main focus was to catch the ball,” Elardo said. “They were playing off me. I caught it and I saw Jude and flipped it.”

Innocent said he took off right after the ball was snapped to Klemm. “Elardo did a great job with the flip. I thought he was going to get tackled,” Innocent said. “He put it in a good spot for me to get some speed and sneak into the end zone before I stepped out of bounds.”

It was a well-designed, well-executed play that involved many moving parts — an especially impressive accomplishment because none of the parties involved had ever played together before last week’s first practice.

The play may have been a wrinkle that brought a twinkle to Hoss’ eye, but it was also a play the Long Island team had practiced. “It was the first play we put in last Tuesday,” Klemm said. “We thought we might use it on the first play of the game or the first play of the second half. But we saved it for a more needy situation — fourth and long.”

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