In the Bizzarro world of Seaford football, the running game is king.
So with star running back Justin Cestro sidelined in the second half with a left leg injury, Patrick Bizzarro stepped on to the big stage.
Bizzarro rushed for 86 yards on 22 carries and the game's only touchdown, a 7-yard burst with 3:28 left that clinched No. 2 Seaford's 10-0 victory over No. 3 West Hempstead Thursday night in a Nassau IV semifinal at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
Seaford plays Roosevelt in the Nassau IV final at 7 p.m. next Thursday at Hofstra.
"It was a beautiful hole and I wasn't going down," said Bizzarro, who also made eight tackles as the Vikings held the Rams to 179 yards of total offense. "We were going to wear them down."
That's exactly what happened in this gritty defensive struggle in which the only points prior to Bizzarro's run came on a 22-yard field goal by Matthew Murphy with 30 seconds left in the first half.
"This is our kind of game," said Seaford two-way lineman James O'Hagan. "We're a running team and a run-stopping team."
Joe Bongiovi joined Bizzarro in helping Seaford produce 200 yards of rushing. The Vikings did not complete a pass. He rushed for 87 yards on 19 carries, including consecutive runs of 5 and 11 yards that brought the ball to the West Hempstead 7 and into position for Bongiovi to apply the crowning blow.
The game featured numerous fourth-down gambles by both teams. "I love it when we go for it on fourth down," O'Hagan said. "That means Coach [Rob Perpall] has confidence in us. Fourth down is where it's going to happen. That's where the best team will win."
The best team often wins with defense, too, and Seaford was excellent in containing Rams running backs Bruce Gibbs (63 yards) and Enrique McFarlane (54 yards). McFarlane was stopped on a key fourth-and-3 at the West Hempstead 49 midway through the fourth quarter when Tom Galante and John Lauretti teamed up for a jarring hit that stopped McFarlane inches short. Lauretti made seven tackles, including a sack.
There were no TDs in the first half, but it wasn't because the teams weren't taking risks.
On three consecutive series, the Vikings and Rams eschewed punts on fourth down. On the first play of the second quarter, Seaford went for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 34. Bongiovi was stopped by linebacker Vinny Messina.
West Hempstead took over and managed only eight yards on the next three plays and elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Seaford 27. McFarlane was stopped by O'Hagan.
Seaford (8-2) then moved into West Hempstead (7-3) territory at the Rams' 44, but on fourth-and-3 the Vikings tried a rare pass that fell incomplete.
Two plays later, Anthony Beaubrun fumbled and Seaford's John Schaller, who also made two interceptions, recovered. The Vikings then marched to the WH 5, with Bongiovi ripping off gains of 10 and 11 yards. Murphy, a left-footed kicker, delivered a 22-yard field goal for the only points of the half.
Said O'Hagan, "Our defense did a great job against a high-scoring team with two great running backs."