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Idris Carter, Xavier Cooper help get Roosevelt back to winning ways

Xavier Cooper, Roosevelt running back, rushes to within

Xavier Cooper, Roosevelt running back, rushes to within a yard of the endzone during a Nassau County Conference III game against Lawrence at Roosevelt High School on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. Credit: James Escher

The early reports about the demise of the Roosevelt football program may have been just that — early.

The Rough Riders didn’t open the season with all the personnel expected and stumbled out of the gate with three straight losses. That’s when it started to appear a once-mighty program had been laid low and might miss the postseason for the first time since 2002.

Things look very different today after quarterback Idris Carter and tailback Xavier Cooper headlined a ground game that carried host Roosevelt to a 24-13 Nassau Conference III victory on Saturday. The homecoming festivities also included marking the 20th anniversary of the Rough Riders’ 1999 Long Island championship.

Roosevelt (3-4) has won three of its last four games and this victory keeps it in position to earn a postseason berth. It’s regular-season finale is against Wantagh next week.

“We had to win this game because we want to be back in the playoffs,” said Cooper, who scored a pair of touchdowns. “This is Roosevelt football so we don’t do ‘what if’ about losing...And we didn’t pay attention to the talk [when we were 0-3]. It made us push harder, do better and get back on track.”

“This win is a big deal because we’re going into next week to make it to .500 after our really slow start,” Roosevelt coach Joe Vito said. “What's been big for us is this team has [held] together the whole season, which is pretty extraordinary these days when a lot of people kind of give up when things aren't going that well. They’re proving to themselves, when you stay together that a lot of good things can happen.”

Carter rushed for 118 yards on 17 carries and was the centerpiece of a ball control performance that only allowed Lawrence (2-5) to snap the ball nine times in the second half. He also threw a quick sideline pass to Kayden Parker that the junior wideout took 71 yards for the lone score in the first quarter.

Cooper had nine carries for 36 yards and scored a on a 3-yard run and a 1-yard run, and Aaron Ottenwalder had a 31-yard field goal and was 3-for-3 on extra points for Roosevelt.

Pat Cave returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, Anquan Walker had a 1-yard touchdown run and Josiah Reed recovered a fumble for Lawrence. Luke Kirchner added two sacks for the Golden Tornadoes.

The Ottenwalder field goal made it 10-0 early in the second quarter, but the Golden Tornadoes answered with a 65-yard drive for Walker’s touchdown; in the drive, he completed four passes for 34 of the yards. Carter had runs of 24 and 27 yards in the ensuing possession that was capped by Cooper’s first touchdown.

Cave’s brilliant return of the kickoff — though Lawrence failed to get the two-point conversion — left it at 17-13 at halftime.

In the second half, Roosevelt threw only one pass and ran the ball 27 times during the course of three possessions, keeping the clock running and the ball out of the Tornadoes' hands.

“We had some inexperienced people at the start of the season who are playing better now that they have experience,” Carter said. “But what I like best is the confidence I am seeing in my teammates. We’re getting better every week.”

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