The players from Roosevelt felt the despair seeping in. Trailing by a point with 3:22 left, the Rough Riders had turned the ball over on downs. Now, Bethpage was likely just a first down away from clinching a huge one in Nassau III.
Senior wide receiver Quran Simmons painted a picture of the Roosevelt sideline.
"I looked at my team," he said after Roosevelt eventually came back for a stunning 20-13 win, "and tears were coming down their face, thinking it was over."
That's when senior wide receiver Gianni Knight got vocal.
"He stepped up," Simmons said, "and said 'Let's go. Give all you got right now. Put your hearts on the line.' "
The defense responded by forcing a three-and-out, and Roosevelt (5-2) got the ball back with 1:48 left. A minute later, the Rough Riders' sideline erupted even before Simmons crossed the plane on his 42-yard touchdown catch from junior Stephen Vailes, the game's deciding blow.
"I'm at a loss for words," Simmons said afterward. "Huge win. The defense played great."
Before he threw to Simmons, Vailes bobbled a low snap. When he looked up, he saw a herd of Bethpage linemen barreling toward him, but beyond them, a streaking Simmons over the middle of the field.
"I was a little bit nervous that I wasn't going to get the ball off," said Vailes, who completed 9 of 14 passes for 151 yards. "Just had to keep my composure."
He hit Simmons in stride.
"I felt like it was my turn to step up," Simmons said. "There was a defender on me, trying to tackle me, so I stiff armed him."
But it wasn't just a routine stiff arm. It was emphatic, the type that draws a gasp from the fans watching.
"It felt good," Simmons said with a smile. "I was like, I work out. I might as well stiff arm."
Junior running back Jude Innocent, who had 101 yards on 14 carries and two TDs, said, "It was astonishing."
For Bethpage (5-2), Anthony Sforza topped the team's first drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. With the Golden Eagles pounding the ball -- their run-to-pass was 56-3 -- it made play action extremely effective. Quarterback Michael Carrello took advantage midway through the fourth quarter, when he faked a handoff before hitting a wide-open Jack Carney for a 20-yard TD to put Bethpage up 13-12.
But after the Vailes-to-Simmons touchdown, an interception by Roosevelt's Corey Bull served as the finishing touch.
"This," Innocent said, "is the most-needed win in our season."