Mepham’s Billy Molloy instills fear in no one at first glance. That’s their mistake. The junior may stand just 5-8 and weigh only 145 pounds, but in big-play situations he comes up huge.
Molloy, a defensive back, made a pair of enormous defensive plays late in the fourth quarter to help the Pirates survive Sewanhaka for a 14-7 Nassau Conference II football victory at Mepham.
With the Indians just three yards from the end zone and a chance to tie the game or take the lead, Molloy came off the edge and got to Sewanhaka back Toryn Hayden in the backfield and brought him down for a nine-yard loss.
It put the run-first Indians in a fourth and goal at the 12 and they ended up turning it over on downs. And when Sewanhaka got the ball back with two minutes left, Molloy took away their last breath with an interception in the final 30 seconds to ice the win.
“It’s not his first big play,” said Mepham coach Anthony Cracco, who said the win made for a nice birthday present from his team. “He’s a really smart football player. He may not be the biggest kid on the field, but he plays a lot bigger.”
“I know no one maybe expects it from me because I am one of the smallest guys on the team, but your size doesn’t matter,” Molloy said. “Instinct and motivation are what matter.”
Mepham (3-0) took a 7-0 lead on the game’s first possession when Jack Savalli broke through the line to block a punt into the end zone and Griffin Karp recovered it for a touchdown. “I didn’t think I’d get to it,” Savalli said. “Then something hit me in the face.”
But that was almost all the Pirates could muster against the excellent line play of the Indians (2-1). They got only one first down and 39 yards of offense the rest of the half. Sewanhaka put together a 57-yard drive capped by Xavier Lesperance’s 38-yard touchdown run to make 7-7 at the half.
That’s when Cracco changed his offense up. He put powerful Matt Hegi behind center and the senior charged through the Indians. On the first two Pirates possession after halftime he rushed eight times for 61 yards. He capped the second with a 17-yard touchdown run behind a block by Kenny Franquiz where he hesitated to let a tackler go by and then dashed to the end zone.
“We’re a better team when Matt has the ball in his hands,” Cracco said.
“This is the first game I’ve felt like myself after I hurt my knee in a scrimmage,” Hegi said, “and I love to play power football.”
Quarterback Chukwudi Uchendu, who rushed for 92 yards on 25 carries, engineered the Indians on a 20-play drive from their own 15 to the Pirates’ 3. He threw for two third-down conversions, ran for a third and ran for a fourth-down conversion. Then came Molloy's first big play.
Sewanhaka managed to get Mepham to go three-and-out on the ensuing possession but Sean White’s 42-yard punt left them 56 yards away with only 1:59 left. The Indians moved it 12 before Molloy’s pick-off.
“It was like I saw the pass come out in slow motion and it was such a good feeling to put my hands around it,” Molloy said. “Our defense really came through. [Sewanhaka] was tough, but our defense had the confidence at the end.”