Fans lined the fence on Skillman Ave to get a peak at the Nassau Conference I football championship. It was the first title game hosted by the higher seed in 37 years. And the place was jumping.
A passionate crowd, loud music blaring in between plays and two fantastically qualified teams playing a back and forth crowd pleaser. Four lead changes, and an on-field shouting match between the head coaches at halftime and championship caliber play kept the crowd ignited and the atmosphere electric.
The final run for glory came in the way of a well-placed block by offensive tackle Robert Koelmel that sealed the right end and allowed Massapequa halfback Tim Morrow to race 35 yards for the go-ahead score with 1:10 left in the game.
It was Morrow’s third touchdown and the ensuing two-point conversion pass from quarterback John Giller to wideout Jonny Yahner helped Massapequa to come from behind to beat previously undefeated Oceanside, 36-29, and claim the Nassau Conference I football title before a wild crowd in Oceanside.
It was Massapequa’s seventh appearance in the championship game since 1998 and the school’s first title.
"Once I got to the edge it was nothing but green in front of me and I just took off," said Morrow, who rushed 16 times for 200 yards. "The offensive line was unbelievable. We challenged them during the week to take it to Oceanside and they did. Koelmel had a great block to get me loose."
The final march came after Oceanside punter Joe Briguglio’s 47-yard punt pinned Massapequa at its own 16 with 3:31 left. The punt set the strarting point for an 84-yard championship drive, which included a third down conversion from Giller.
On third and four, Giller rolled left and found no room to run. He reversed field and turned a potential 13-yard loss into a 10-yard gain and a first down at the Massapequa 43. A subsequent facemask penalty moved the ball 15 yards to the 28.
"He made something from nothing, the play of the year," said Massapequa coach Kevin Shippos. "He lives to compete in this high-pressure environment, a real winner. Quarterbacks like Giller, the dual threats, don’t come along often."
Oceanside (7-1), which last won the conference crown in 2017, took over at its own 33 for one final shot at a last-minute comeback. Junior quarterback Charlie McKee was sacked by Goelmel for a 9-yard loss and his final fourth down pass was swatted away from Dan McCormick by defensive back Giovanni Lauro with 13 seconds left.
McKee, one of Long Island’s prolific passers, battled against a fierce wind and blanket coverage, completing 11 of 23 passes for 80 yards.
"Oceanside has a great team and one of the best quarterbacks and our defense went on the road and played the game of the year," said Morrow. "They are a quick start first-half team and we grind for four quarters. It became a four-quarter brawl."
Oceanside was in complete control early on. Halfback Thomas Flavin scored on a 31-yard first quarter run and McKee added a 5-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter for the 15-0 advantage.
Michael Mecca recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Massapequa 49 and Oceanside looked to take a three-score lead.
"Our defense stopped them in a big spot and we came back with a touchdown," Shippos said. "That was a huge momentum swing."
Massapequa responded with a five-play, 67-yard drive capped by Morrow's 14-yard touchdown run over the left side to make it 15-6. Giller added an 8-yard run with 48 seconds left in the half to make it 15-13.
Tempers flared when McKee was tackled hard on the final play of the half, drawing a 15-yard penalty for the late hit.
"Two intense coaches in a big spot," said Matt McLees, the Nassau football coordinator. "They’re both looking out for their teams and it was very emotional. The officials got the call right and did a great job of keeping everyone within the boundaries of sportsmanship."
Oceanside opened the third quarter with an impressive 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by an Andres Duran 4-yard scoring run and the Sailors regained the lead, 22-13, with 5:52 left. Duran finished the game with 153 yards on 24 carries.
Massapequa answered with a four-play, 61-yard scoring drive as Morrow went 34 yards for a score to close the gap to 22-20.
"It was incredible," Giller said. "Timmy is so electric."
Giller worked some magic of his own in the second half. He fired a 16-yard pass to Morrow to the Sailors' nine with 1:41 left in the third quarter. Two plays later Giller ran three yards for a TD. He connected with Morrow for the two-point conversion pass for the 28-22 lead.
Massapequa (7-1) scored on four consecutive drives, turning a 15-0 deficit into a six-point lead with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
Oceanside wasn’t done. The Sailors drove 75 yards on nine plays and Duran took it up the middle to the house to tie the score at 28. Briguglio added the kick for the 29-28 lead with 10:06 left in the game.
"I’ll never forget this game," Morrow said. "It was amazing."