Lindenhurst quarterback Nick Anzalone deflected all the credit for Friday night’s win. He directed the accolades for the thorough 28-7 victory over Longwood in Suffolk Division I toward his coaches, the offensive line, the defense and anyone without the last name Anzalone.
But it was Anzalone — a first-year starter who completed 12 of 18 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns — who stole the show. He converted with pinpoint accuracy on all four third-down conversions in the first half as the Bulldogs opened a 21-0 lead.
“It’s not possible without everyone doing their job,” Anzalone said. “The coaches have really spent the time with me in films understanding what I’m looking at and figuring out the defenses. And our line and running game has been great.”
It doesn’t hurt to have a blue chip wide receiver in Ohio State-bound Jeremy Ruckert to lean on in third-down situations. Ruckert caught seven passes for 72 yards, including five third-down conversion catches.
“It’s a comfort knowing Jeremy is out there,” Anzalone said. “He’s a go-to guy.”
Lindenhurst scored on its first three possessions of the first half. The Bulldogs mixed the run and the pass and that balance helped them on two long scoring drives. The third touchdown came after a Longwood fumble deep in Lions territory.
Anzalone, quickly emerging as one of Long Island’s top signal-callers, threw for three first-half touchdowns and completed 8 of 9 passes for 135 yards before the break.
“He showed poise in the pocket and did a fantastic job of checking down to the right receivers,” said coach Nick Lombardo. “We are very happy with his progress. He has a strong arm and he’s making the right decisions.”
Longwood (1-2) opened the game with an eight-play, 33-yard drive that lasted 6 minutes, 23 seconds but was undermined by a few killer penalties.
“We moved the ball at times and hurt ourselves with penalties and then a turnover,” said Longwood coach Jeff Cipp. “We can’t have those mistakes against any opponent. We have a lot of work to do but we’ll be alright. We have a bye week and we’ll work out the kinks.”
Anzalone connected for touchdown passes of 15 yards to Justin Zotto, 75 yards to Ricky Conway and 10 yards to Dilon Smith.
Conway’s second-quarter touchdown romp came on a third-and-8 pass from Lindenhurst’s 25-yard line. Anzalone drew the rush and dumped a short pass over the outstretched arms of the defensive front to Conway, who juked the first tackler and outran the secondary to the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 7:54 left in the half.
Linebacker Dean Morreale recovered a Longwood fumble deep in Lions territory to set up the final score of the half. Anzalone passed 14 yards to Ruckert and then fired a 10-yard scoring strike to Smith to make it 21-0.
Longwood came out in the second half and forced Anzalone into his lone mistake. The quarterback fired downfield and defensive back Jaheim Dotson intercepted at the Lions’ 29.
Longwood started to gain some momentum, moving the ball quickly to the Bulldogs’ 36 behind big runs of 19 yards from halfback Jake Murphy (18 carries, 146 yards) and 13 from Elrich Bowlay-Williams. But a fumble on a toss, recovered by linebacker Jack Whiney, short-circuited another Lions drive.
Lindenhurst punctuated the win with a workmanlike nine-play, 72-yard drive, capped by Conway’s 13-yard touchdown run. Anzalone hit Ruckert with three passes for 38 yards during the drive and Conway finished the march with a 17-yard run and the touchdown scamper.