Two defensive juggernauts were in the spotlight Friday night, and they did not disappoint.
The Longwood defense held on just long enough to extend its season, defeating host Sachem East, 14-12, in a Suffolk I football semifinal. It was the second barnburner between these teams this season. Sachem East beat Longwood, 7-0, in their first matchup.
Third-seeded Longwood (8-2) will play the winner of the game between No. 1 Floyd and No. 4 Patchogue-Medford for the county championship at 7 p.m. on Nov. 22 at Stony Brook. Second-seeded Sachem East finished 7-3.
An active defense was the ticket for Longwood in the first half. Derrick Sperling stopped Sachem East quarterback Nick Stelling on fourth-and-3 at the Longwood 20 on the opening drive. Anele Nwanyanwu took the handoff on Longwood’s first play from scrimmage and went 80 yards for a touchdown.
Longwood forced Sachem East into another turnover on downs midway through the second quarter to set up the next score. Quarterback Noah Rattmer found Zach Soriano for a 44-yard touchdown pass down the right hash to send the Lions into the halftime break ahead 14-0.
The Longwood defense held Sachem East to 51 yards of net offense and made six tackles for a loss in the first half.
“The first half was a great defensive show,” Longwood coach Jefferson Cipp said. “The second half, we started making mistakes . . . but the kids played hard enough in the last 24 minutes to win the game.”
Ryan Paolella put Sachem East on the board with an 8-yard touchdown run with 59 seconds left in the third quarter to get within 14-6.
Stelling capped a fourth-quarter drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Connor to make it 14-12 with 6:53 left, but Longwood stopped the two-point conversion run to maintain its two-point advantage.
Soriano intercepted a pass in the end zone with 1:23 left to seal the win.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” he said. “But we went all out on every play . . . We were swarming out there tonight.”