The commitment was to run the football. And run Longwood did. The Lions ran straight to the Long Island Class I championship.
“We pushed the weight training in the offseason and they all bought in,” said Longwood coach Jeff Cipp. “This group was committed to winning a Long Island title.”
And the Lions did so in impressive fashion. Longwood rushed for a Long Island-record 555 yards and scored seven touchdowns on the ground in a 47-28 win over Farmingdale to claim the Long Island Class I crown last Sunday at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium.
On the way to the title, Longwood (11-1) ended the perfect season and championship hopes of consecutive opponents from Lindenhurst and Farmingdale. The 44-14 win over Lindenhurst in the Suffolk championship game avenged the Lions’ only loss this season.
“We turned the ball over in the first loss against Lindy and we learned from it,” said Matt Weiss, Longwood’s two-way lineman. “We controlled our own destiny by running the ball and taking care of it.”
Longwood’s offensive philosophy was anything but conventional. In the era of the spread offense, where passing often dominates, the Lions opt to run, run and run. And they scored 48 touchdowns by run this season.
It really wasn’t much of a surprise that Longwood shattered the LIC record of 446 yards rushing set by North Babylon in 1999.
“There was no secret to our success,” said Longwood fullback Latrell Horton. “We line up and knock you down. We come right at people, man-to-man and we bring it. If you’re not in the weight room all year, you can’t play against us.”
Horton steamrolled his opponents all season. In the Long Island title game, his 63-yard run late in the second quarter featured a few collisions and broken tackles.
“I like those kinds of runs,” he said. “I like when the defensive backs come up and try and put it on me. I play for the hard contact, and for the big hits.”
Horton’s run set up a Tahj Clark 8-yard touchdown run on the next play for a 21-14 lead, part of a 47-0 run for Longwood.
“We grabbed the momentum and never gave it up,” said Longwood’s two-way lineman Anthony Lavio. “We take so much pride in our blocking assignments and wen work well together.”
On Farmingdale’s next possession, Longwood defensive back Josh Rivers intercepted a pass at his own 37 and set up the Lions’ second touchdown in the final 1:23 of the half.
On the next play, fullback Mike Scalice burst up the middle for a 60-yard run to the Dalers 3. Horton punched it in for the score and the Lions led 27-14. The second quarter of the LIC was a microcosm of Longwood’s season. The Lions offense rolled over opponents to average 37 points per game.
They did it with little diversity. How many teams do you think could win a Long Island title, only throwing four touchdown passes in 12 games? Longwood did.
And the Lions scored more touchdowns on defense than through the air. They scored on five interceptions, blocked a field goal, a punt return and two fumble recoveries — a total of nine.
Athletic linebackers Antonio Scala and Horton and defensive back Sean Rausch were quick to the ball in run support and tough as nails.
“We were a complete team,” Cipp said. “We fell short of a title a year ago and that was a huge motivator for them. This was a great season.”
LIONS’ road to the championship
Long Island championship