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Valley Stream North outlasts Mineola in football overtime thriller

Valley Stream North teammates celebrate after their 13-7

Valley Stream North teammates celebrate after their 13-7 win in overtime over host Mineola in a Nassau County Conference III football game at Hampton Stadium in Garden City Park on Friday. Credit: James Escher

There was no snap call, so the element of surprise was there.

Valley Stream North quarterback Tim McGrath got the ball from center, lunged left behind a powerful block by guard Johnny Sofield and together they crashed through the Mineola line for the 1-yard touchdown that gave the Spartans a 13-7 overtime win at the Mustangs’ Hampton Field on Friday night.

“There was no way to see it coming,” McGrath said.

Valley Stream North (3-2 Nassau III) had players rise to big occasions throughout a physical and defensive battle, but they came fast and furious in an overtime forced when linebacker Noah Etame made the hit that stopped Mineola (3-2) short on a fourth-and 7 will 11 seconds left in regulation.

Peter Mura picked it up when Mineola quarterback Jonathan Salamone threw a screen pass to Matt Tarantola and pulled him down from behind five yards short of a first down to end the Mustangs' possession in the overtime. And McGrath pulled back the handoff to Tim Hutchinson and went seven yards behind Lucas Grillo on a third-and-3 to keep the Spartans’ overtime possession going.

Hutchinson, who carried 27 times for 179 yards and a 49-yard touchdown, went four yards on a second-and-goal to the Mustangs’ 1 right before McGrath took it in for the game-winner.

“We made our share of mistakes today, but the defense kept saving our bacon,” Valley Stream North coach Chris Wagner said. “Our conditioning really came through in this, which was one great game. We went to overtime and our guys kept making plays. Teams wear down when you get into overtime and we didn’t.”

“Defense will win you a championship,” Hutchinson said. “When we stopped them to start the overtime, it was huge lift. We could feel we were going to win.”

Hutchinson’s touchdown capped a 76-yard game-opening drive. Mineola was able to even the score in the second quarter after lineman Ericson Velasquez sacked McGrath for a 15-yard loss and then broke through the line as McGrath was about to punt and brought him down at the Spartan 14. Salamone hit Aidan McMahon on a slant pattern for a 13-yard touchdown two plays later to make it 7-7.

Velasquez broke through on another McGrath punt attempt late in the game to give Mineola the ball on the Spartan 26. But the Mustangs committed a pair of untimely penalties – one a holding call that took a 23-yard Salamone-to-Tarantola touchdown off the board – and couldn’t capitalize.

Valley Stream North's Felipe Ramirez had a fumble recovery to halt a Mustang drive and Mineola’s Gabriel Arantes had fumble recovery to halt a Spartan drive.

When Valley Stream North won the coin toss, it opted to play defense first.

Valley Stream North’s ability to pick itself up with its defense when its offense stalled was emblematic of the season it’s having. Every time the Spartans have had a setback, they rebound. After losing to Wantagh in the season opener, they found a way to win against Glen Cove. And when it faltered last week against South Side, it put itself back in the playoff hunt against Mineola.

“It’s a resilient group with a ‘next play, next-man up’ mindset,” Wagner said. “They keep coming back and don’t let anything get them down.”

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