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Ryan Hofmann helps Lindenhurst rally in thrilling Suffolk I title game

Lindenhurst quarterback Ryan Hofmann drops back to pass

Lindenhurst quarterback Ryan Hofmann drops back to pass in the first half of the Suffolk I final at Stony Brook University on Nov. 21, 2014. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Ryan Hofmann completed 20 of 43 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns Friday night as Lindenhurst outlasted Patchogue-Medford, 30-27, in the Suffolk Division I football final before 4,000 at Stony Brook University's LaValle Stadium.

Hofmann brought the Bulldogs from behind late in the fourth quarter with an 80-yard touchdown drive. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 80 yards, punctuating the drive with a 39-yard scoring pass to junior wide receiver Joe Palmeri.

The winning toss found Palmeri open on the sideline at about the 32-yard line. Palmeri took off, cut back inside the defense at the 25 and juked two defenders to the end zone.

Hofmann, who connected with five different receivers, escaped a sack try by defensive end Zach Genaway before the winning touchdown toss. "[Palmeri's] one of the best receivers and I trust him with every throw," Hofmann said. "And he has some of the greatest moves."

Said Palmeri, "I just did what I do best. I make big plays in the big moment. I knew it was our game right after that play."

Lindenhurst (9-2) will meet Syosset (7-4) for the Long Island Class I championship at Hofstra University's Shuart Stadium at noon on Friday. Lindenhurst captured its first outright Suffolk title after sharing the crown with West Islip in 1972.

"This was a wild game and everything we expected," Lindenhurst coach Nick Lombardo said. "I'm so proud of our guys and the way they came back and played their hearts out."

It was a difficult end for Patchogue-Medford (6-5), which beat the top two seeds in the postseason on its way to the final.

The Raiders capitalized on a turnover for the opening score. Defensive back Shameir McCullough forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Matt Codispoti at the Lindenhurst 39-yard line. Two plays later, halfback Dom Cassella caught a quick out from quarterback Rich Ciufo and turned on the jets to beat the secondary to the edge for a 35-yard touchdown. Tim Jones added the kick to make it 7-0 with 7:04 left in the first quarter.

Lindenhurst put together a seven-play, 79-yard scoring drive to tie the score at 7. Quarterback Ryan Hofmann completed 5 of 7 passes for 79 yards on the drive including a 17-yard scoring pass to Joe Palmeri. A.J. Leddy converted the kick to tie it at 7.

With the score tied at 7, Patchogue-Medford had a long drive that stalled at Lindenhurst's 15. Tim Jones' 32-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Marquise Williams, who picked up the ball and raced 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The extra-point kick was missed and the Bulldogs led 13-7 with 10:22 left in the half.

It was the 10th blocked kick of the season for Lindenhurst's special-teams unit, including four by Williams. "Our special teams have been very good all year," Lombardo said. "Williams has been explosive off the edge. He's been outstanding."

The teams traded touchdowns for the remainder of the half.

Patchogue-Medford quarterback Rich Ciufo scored on a 6-yard run to tie it at 13. Lindy's Gino Bonagura scored on an 8-yard run for a 20-13 lead.

Ciufo, who completed 15 of 30 passes for 167 yards, then engineered an 11-play, 66-yard drive capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass to James Conklin with 48 seconds left in the half. The kick was missed and the Raiders trailed 20-19.

Lindenhurst opened the second half with a 12-play, 59-yard drive that ended with A.J. Leddy's 26-yard field goal for a 23-19 lead. After the teams traded four punts, speedy Patchogue-Medford halfback Dom Cassella broke a 70-yard TD run off a great block by left guard McKenson Smart, and when Ciufo lofted a fade to Mike Baldwin for the two-point conversion, the Raiders had a 27-23 lead. Cassella finished with 183 yards and two TDs on 19 carries.

After the winning drive, Lindenhurst's David Keller sacked Ciufo on fourth down with 2:39 left to seal it. "I saw some open gaps and got through," Keller said. "We're the number one defense in our division for a reason. And now we're champions."

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