Bellmore-Merrick had scored only one touchdown and trailed by one point with 7:49 left in the Nassau girls flag football championship game. But now the Chargers had the ball back, 55 yards from the end zone and they had believers in their midst.
“I knew that we were going to come back,” said Gabby Hanellin, their senior slot receiver. “There was not a doubt in my mind if they got me the ball, I was going and scoring.”
Junior quarterback Sofia LaSpina got her the ball on fourth down from the 4. Hanellin turned it into a drive-closing, game-winning, 4-yard touchdown reception with 4:24 on the clock as Bellmore-Merrick beat Lynrook, 12-7, at Mepham on Thursday night.
So Bellmore-Merrick became the first Nassau champion in this sport, which arrived on Long Island this spring as part of the Jets X Nike High School Girls Flag Football League.
“It’s such a great feeling,” Hanellin said. “I can’t even describe it in words . . . It’s historic. It’s going to go down in history forever for us.”
And the season isn’t over yet for a team that’s 9-0-1, including the postseason. It will be facing the Suffolk winner — Whitman or Sachem East — in the Long Island championship game at 3:30 on June 4 at the Jets’ training complex in Florham Park, New Jersey.
“It was just awesome to know that we’re going to Jersey,” LaSpina said.
LaSpina threw for 195 yards and two scores. She was also picked off by Kaelyn O’Brien and Amelia Doyle in the first half.
On the deciding play, the lefty passer looked for Adriana Iemma. She was covered. LaSpina drifted left and threw left to Hanellin, who took it in for the win.
“I feel like everyone was a little nervous and trying to wrap their heads around where we are right now,” LaSpina said. “But once we all got it together and we started working as a team, we finally did what we were supposed to.”
The Owls (7-2-1) had a few key injuries and didn’t play well when the Chargers beat them, 41-22, on May 16.
“Today we had everybody back,” coach Rob Kolb said. “We had a few wrinkles in to change it up for them … I thought we were the better athletes, but they made more plays than we did.”
O’Brien was his quarterback. In the first half, the junior scored on a 1-yard run, then threw a conversion pass to make it 7-0. LaSpina soon countered with a 10-yard TD pass to Iemma, but the conversion pass failed. Lynbrook’s defense was rather formidable.
But the Chargers succeeded in the end.
“These girls have worked very, very hard,” coach Anthony Cracco said. “To be a part of a history-making season — this is just a capper on a great season. It’s been such an unbelievable experience to be around these kids every day.”