Nick La Rosa slipped behind blocks by Andrew Fabilli and Patrick Godfrey and burst into the end zone. Daniel Quigley got caught by the ankle but still managed to dive 2 yards and across the goal line. Head coach Dan Agovino saw the final seconds tick off the clock and was instantly engulfed in a sea of maroon jerseys.
These were not just scenes from a title game victory. They were the touchstone moments in ending a long drought.
North Shore is a county football champion for only the second time and first since 1975 after riding its versatile rushing attack and solid defense to beat Cold Spring Harbor, 21-14, in the Nassau Conference IV championship game at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium on Saturday.
"I am so proud of the way the players played and the way our community and football family support us," Agovino said. "We had a lot of alumni come out for this game. A lot of ghosts walked on the field with us today. And we walk off as champions with them."
North Shore (9-2) has earned the right to face Suffolk’s Shoreham-Wading River in next Saturday’s Long Island Class IV championship game at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium.
Peter Liotta, who split time at quarterback with Quigley and was part of a fearsome three-headed rushing attack, said of ending the title drought, "North Shore has had a lot of great teams before but to think that we did something that hasn’t happened in so long is just amazing."
La Rosa was slippery all day, eluding tackles as he rushed 15 times for 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Quigley rushed for 78 of his 81 yards after halftime, often on the edge, and his dive into the end zone broke a 14-14 tie. And Liotta rushed for 75 yards, often through the small holes between the tackles, as North Shore rolled up 264 yards on the ground.
"We were going to pound them every time," Quigley said. "We weren’t going to let a yard get away."
Cold Spring Harbor (7-4) was near perfect in the first quarter. The Seahawks’ first drive went 20 plays and 76 yards for a 2-yard Charles Tauckus touchdown and devoured 11:17. CSH was in position to go up two scores in the second quarter when misfortune struck, in the form of an officiating mistake.
Quarterback C.J. Reilly ran the middle and squirted out the other side for what would have been a 59-yard touchdown, but there was an inadvertent whistle during the run. Game officials decided to play the down over and the possession concluded with a punt. Seahawks coach Jon Mendreski was furious and said after the game, "I can’t discuss this without getting myself in trouble."
North Shore answered right there by going 88 yards and capping the drive with La Rosa weaving through the CSH defenders for a 41-yard score.
In the second half, the Vikings gave more reps at quarterback to Quigley with great effect. He had 49 yards on seven carries on the opening drive, which went 81 yards and ended with La Rosa’s 1-yard run.
The Seahawks evened it up, 14-14, on a 4-yard Tauckus 4-yard TD with 2:38 left in the third quarter.
North Shore answered with a 59-yard drive — all running plays by Liotta, La Rosa and Quigley — to go up 21-14 on Quigley’s 2-yard dive after a Seahawks tackler nearly made an ankle tackle.
"I’ve worked my whole life to score that touchdown," Quigley said. "I had to get in."
Quigley’s interception ended CSH’s next possession and he rushed for a pair of first downs as the Vikings ran out the clock.
Hanging in the football locker room at North Shore is a photo of the final moments of last season, when the Vikings lost the county title game to Wantagh. Agovino called it "a reminder that the job wasn’t finished."
"Everyone looking at that every day?" La Rosa said. "It drove us all season and was why we had a different level of intensity today."