Mineola's James Gerstner runs the ball on a keep during...

Mineola's James Gerstner runs the ball on a keep during the first quarter of of a Nassau IV semifinal at Hofstra on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. Credit: James Escher

Robert Lang kicked a tiebreaking 21-yard field goal with 1:03 left to give Mineola a thrilling 16-13 win over Locust Valley Saturday night in a Nassau Conference IV semifinal playoff game at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.

The winning field goal came after Peter McCormack intercepted a pass at the Locust Valley 40-yard line with 4:29 remaining. Mineola (8-2) drove to the 4 to set up the kick. "I was thinking about it early in the week, that I could be in this position and make the winning kick," said Lang, who was successful on two of three field-goal attempts earlier this season. "It was a chip shot just like an extra point. I wasn't really nervous."

Mineola will face Roosevelt (9-1) in the Nassau Conference IV championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Hofstra.

Mineola forged a 13-0 first-half lead, led by quarterback James Gerstner. He orchestrated a 15-play, 62-yard drive capped by Brian Smith's 4-yard run with 47 seconds left in the first quarter, then threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Smith on a slant pattern with 5:09 left in the half. Gerstner waited for him to clear the linebackers and fired a perfect pass on the run to Smith, who cruised into the end zone untouched.

The Mustangs held Locust Valley without a first down until midway through the third quarter, yielding 21 yards on 15 plays. Locust Valley's longest gain was six yards. The middle of the Falcons' defense, led by middle linebacker Ryan Eccher, was impenetrable.

"Our coaches scouted them well and we had a great game plan," Eccher said. "They made some adjustments at the half and moved the ball in the third quarter, but we made big plays when it mattered."

A 20-yard TD pass from Tyler Liantonio to Owen Trepeta got the Falcons within 13-6 with 10:37 left in the game. After Dan Syrett sacked Gerstner and forced a fumble that was recovered by Dane Sandillo at the Mustangs' 25, Sam Torelli's 2-yard TD run made it 13-12 with 6:33 left. Nick Petralia's kick tied it at 13.

But Mineola never wavered and McCormack's pick set up the winning drive. "We have confidence in our kicker, and once we got the ball back, we could win it," said linebacker Eric Guardado, who had six tackles.

Locust Valley threw four straight incomplete passes on the final drive. Guardado knocked down the final pass intended for Trepeta on fourth-and-10 at the Falcons' 35.

"He was crossing behind me and I got up and knocked it down," Guardado said. "I thought about the interception, but the right play was just knocking it down."

Big play to seal the win.


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