Running back Billy Andrle took a pitch from quarterback Chris Buschi, hit the right edge and trotted untouched into the end zone to give East Meadow the lead with 48 seconds left.
But in a close, hard-fought game against longtime rival Baldwin, the celebration had to be put on hold. Nothing had been determined yet.
Enter Rob Bergmann. He dropped back on defense into the end zone and snagged an interception as time expired to secure a 9-7 win for East Meadow Saturday in Nassau I football.
"When we picked it off, the sideline exploded and they charged the field," said East Meadow coach Vinny Mascia, whose team improved to 4-1. "They were so excited."
Some of that enthusiasm had been sapped just a few minutes before when the Bruins (3-2) took the lead.
Kyle Bettex's 29-yard field goal had given East Meadow a 3-0 lead with eight seconds left in the first half. East Meadow's defense had been so dominant that it held Baldwin off the scoreboard even after a first-quarter turnover gave the Bruins possession at the Jets' 5-yard line. But that defense finally cracked in the fourth quarter.
Jovaun Tomlinson's 3-yard touchdown run put Baldwin up 7-3 with 2:44 left. During the drive, the Bruins converted a third-and-20 when Tyler Warner hit Travis Hylton on a seam route.
"The kids were hanging their heads a little bit after that," Mascia said. "But [Bergmann] returned the kickoff to the 50, and that was encouraging."
Andrle ran for 108 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries to lead East Meadow. At inside linebacker, he had eight tackles and a sack. Buschi added 81 yards on 18 rushes. Nick Conti had a sack and defensive end Chris Green made eight tackles.
"It's a huge win," Mascia said. "These are two evenly matched teams and we're fighting for third place. We put ourselves in good position with this win."