When the Mineola wrestling team had a hole in its lineup in the 170-pound class last year, James Gerstner stepped in. Never mind that he was 158 pounds.
When the football team was in need of a quarterback this season, Gerstner shifted from tailback.
So when the Mustangs were foundering in the first half of their Nassau IV quarterfinal Friday, "We looked to James because he accepts any challenge and makes something happen," wideout Brian Smith said. "The guy is a miracle worker!"
Well, it could be said that he gave sight to an offense that, for a while, lacked vision. The quarterback totaled 188 yards, ran for one touchdown and threw for another as third-seeded Mineola beat No. 6 Carle Place-Wheatley, 28-6.
The Mustangs, who advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2003, face Locust Valley next Saturday at Hofstra.
"Even with the slow start, I wasn't worried," said Gerstner, who ran for 98 yards and threw for 90. "A couple plays and we'd get it going."
The Wild Frogs went up 6-0 on Andrew Hastings' 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and threatened again after Gerstner was intercepted. But Robert Lang picked off a pass with 2:08 left in the half, setting up Mineola at its 40.
The Mustangs (7-2) needed 60 yards on that drive, so Gerstner ran for 6 and threw for 54, including a 19-yard TD pass to Smith on a slant 20 seconds before halftime. Smith had four catches for 71 yards.
Mineola topped Carle Place-Wheatley, 35-7, in the teams' regular-season finale last week, but this time the Wild Frogs altered their schemes to stifle the spread offense, Mineola coach Dan Guido said.
In the second half, the Mustangs utilized their power running, and right tackle Matt LaFaye anchored a line that allowed them to pull away. Gerstner's 12-yard TD scamper made it 14-6 in the third and Matt Kosowski and Smith added scoring runs.
Smith, Eric Guardado and Anthony Sarno each had a sack, and John Clancy recovered a fumble. The Mustangs held Carle Place/Wheatley (4-5) to 81 total yards.
"We've talked about it since August, wanting to get to Hofstra [for the semifinals]," Gerstner said. "We didn't know exactly how we'd get there, but we're going."
They won't have to walk on water.