Oceanside calls the play "cobra," and when Gene Garay slithers into the open field and Tyler Heuer uncoils his lethal right arm, the results can be pure venom for opposing defenses.
"It's a double move, where I act like I'm going to break toward the sideline, but I cut toward the middle," said Garay, who this season set the Nassau County record for career receiving yards with 1,546. "Tyler has to be patient on the route, but it usually works."
It worked so well that Heuer hit Garay on the cobra route for a 42-yard touchdown pass Oct. 30 at Freeport, the quarterback's 30th of the season, which tied the Nassau record.
Heuer broke the mark yesterday with three TDs, giving him 33 on the season. He was 6-for-12 for 189 yards in No. 2 Oceanside's 49-14 win over No. 7 Massapequa in a Nassau Conference I quarterfinal. For the season, he's completed 117 of 185 passes for 2,044 yards and 33 TDs. Garay, who had five catches for 183 yards and three TDs yesterday, has caught 51 passes for 1,051 and 14 touchdowns. The 14 TDs tied a Nassau single-season mark.
"Gene has that extra edge. He can get open and make things happen," said Heuer, who has drawn recruiting interest from Division I-AA schools such as Massachusetts, Albany and Stony Brook. "He can stop on a dime and then he's at full speed in one step. His jukes are great."
Both seniors are expert at changing direction. As recently as their sophomore seasons, the duo that has formed the most lethal passing combination in county history played the same position. Garay started on the varsity as a running quarterback in the veer offense employed by the previous coaching staff. Heuer started on the junior varsity and, in his own words, "wasn't very good."
Then, in the spring of 2009, something very good happened to the Oceanside program. Rob Blount took over as head coach, installed the spread formation and put two players in motion.
"Right after I got the job, we watched some film and we saw Gene was a tremendous athlete, but he had some trouble throwing the ball," Blount said. "After our first offseason meeting, I met Tyler. He was about 6-1, tall and lanky, someone who looked like he had a lot of promise. I knew he was going to end up being the guy."
How did Garay react to being the guy who switched? He had broken his collarbone and missed half of his sophomore season, so the prospect of getting hit less at wide receiver was appealing. "I said, 'Yeah, definitely, whatever is best for the team.'
"I was happy with the move," said the 5-11, 165-pound Garay, a fine point guard who has been pursued by several Ivy League schools but might play both sports for Division III Amherst. "I'd been playing pickup football with my friends forever and I usually played wide receiver. So it didn't take much time to get used to it. It really wasn't that tough."
Blount recalled watching Garay during the first week of spring practice in 2009. "He made one or two great catches and I turned to one of my coaches and said, 'He's something special.' "
Heuer's transformation into a special player wasn't as instantaneous. First he grew. He's now 6-2 ½, 195 pounds, and has greatly increased his strength and speed since his sophomore year. Then he learned. "Coach re-taught me the position," Heuer said.
"He really became a student of the game," Blount said. "Last year, we pretty much told him where to throw the ball and what to do. Now he's taken ownership of the position. He spent his free periods watching film. He worked in the summer on his footwork and his throwing."
He also used summer 7-on-7s to establish a bond with Garay. "Tyler has evolved. He was a late bloomer," Garay said. "Now he knows that even if I'm not that open, he'll just put it in a spot where I can make a play on it. He does that real well. We trust each other."
That trust began in their first varsity game together, which also was Blount's coaching debut. It was Sept. 10, 2009, against eventual Long Island champion Freeport. The Sailors lost, 48-42, but Heuer threw for 419 yards and five touchdowns and Garay caught 10 passes for 285 yards. Both yardage totals were county records. Talk about a smashing maiden voyage!
"I wasn't confident right away, but after that Freeport game, I thought, 'We can really do this,' " Heuer said.
Said Garay, "We knew after that first game that the system was a great change for us."
No one was happier than Blount. "Obviously, when you move your best athlete out of quarterback, it's a tremendous risk," he said. "But they both did a tremendous job that day and it eased any possible fears for me and for the team. That game gave us instant credibility and put us on the map."
Now two Sailors have snaked their way into the record books, too.