With less than a minute remaining in a Suffolk I football quarterfinal last month, Northport trailed Sachem East by seven points and had the ball at its own 48-yard line. But there was no fear in the huddle as quarterback Ryan Walsh looked at his teammates.
“We were just all telling each other that we truly believed that we were going to get it done and we’ve been working our whole lives for this,” Walsh said. “We knew what we had to do and we went out and did it.”
Walsh led Northport down the field, and with the scoreboard reading zero seconds after a penalty, the Tigers had one last chance to keep their season alive. Walsh took the snap for a play-action pass, but the blitz was on him so quickly that the senior was forced to scramble and roll out. He found Matt Fuggini with an 8-yard touchdown pass, and after a two-point conversion run, the Tigers left the field with a 22-21 win.
“I stayed calm because I knew I worked so hard for this,” Walsh said. “And I really just wanted to be able to let my team advance to the second round.”
Walsh displayed that poise and composure throughout the season, a big reason he won the Esiason Award as Suffolk’s top quarterback at the Suffolk County Football Coaches Association awards dinner in Hauppauge on Monday night.
“It’s a huge honor. Of course, it means a lot to be considered one of the best quarterbacks in Suffolk,” said Walsh, who added that he will play quarterback in college but hasn’t committed to a school yet. “I’ve worked real ly hard for this.”
Northport coach Kip Lukralle credited Walsh’s offseason and year-round training, which includes private lessons with former NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler.
Walsh, a two-year starting quarterback, completed 64 percent of his passes (78-for-121) for 1,145 yards and 15 touchdowns to six interceptions this year.
Lukralle employs what he called a run-first offense, but with the strong arm of the 6-3, 200-pound senior, the playbook was opened up this season.
“We could just snap the ball to him and throw the ball 60 yards downfield at any given moment,” Lukralle said. “I think that’s the piece people had to be aware of and they had to be a little bit fearful of.”