Improbable, yes! Impossible, never!
The Sayville football team and its winning tradition can never be counted out of a game. And they proved that on Saturday afternoon at Islip Terrace. The Golden Flashes trailed Suffolk Division III rival and previously undefeated East Islip by 20 at the half.
Yet here was Sayville, battling back within six points with 18 seconds left at the Redmen’s 17-yard line and no timeouts remaining.
Junior Jack Cheshire, who’d thrown 17 touchdowns in the first three games of his quarterbacking career, the most of any QB in Long Island history through their first three games, stared down an aggressive East Islip defense that had intercepted him three times, forced three fumbles and recorded four sacks.
He dropped back, and just before the rush got to him, unloaded a pass to the far corner of the end zone. The ball somehow found its way through a myriad of arms and double coverage and into the hands of a diving Brock Murtha.
With bodies sprawled all over the end zone, Murtha emerged with the prize and threw his arms out to the delight of the packed visitors’ sideline, confirming the tying touchdown with 13 seconds remaining and the score tied at 27.
Kicker Michael Argenziano hit the extra point and Sayville had a 28-27 come-from-behind-win for the ages before a crowd of more than 2,400.
Sayville improved to 4-0 and dropped East Islip to 3-1.
“We found out what we were made of today against a very good football team,” Murtha said. “We picked each other up. We shook off blown assignments and turnovers and bad plays. And we never stopped coming. And in the end, we made the only play that mattered.”
Cheshire, who shook off the first real adversity of his young career, made the biggest throw of the season in the most critical moment.
“I had my head down at times and Brock told me to just believe and just be confident,” Cheshire said. “We called Brock’s number in the huddle and I knew he’d make the play. I saw him catch it and I still couldn’t believe it. It was unbelievable.”
Said Murtha of the catch: “It was a fade and I was doubled. But what a great throw and I just had to look it in.”
Sayville coach Reade Sands called the winning play.
“We knew Jack could look for Murtha over the top,” Sands said. “What a throw!”
Early on, it was all East Islip. The Redmen built a 20-0 first-half lead and held Sayville to 111 yards and seven first downs. East Islip quarterback Brandon Miller hit Nick Baldino for a 3-yard TD pass and Tom Boyd added the kick for the 7-0 lead. The drive went 86 yards in 14 plays.
East Islip extended the lead when Miller found Baldino for a 41-yard TD to make it 14-0 with 8:20 left in the half. Two plays later, linebacker Tom Higgins stripped a ball carrier and made the fumble recovery, setting up the next score from the Redmen’s 17.
Miller hit Derek Burrell with a screen pass and the speedy sophomore raced 83 yards for a score and a 20-0 lead. Miller was 7-for-14 passing for 183 yards and three scores in the first half. He was 1-for-5 for 11 yards and an interception in the second half when East Islip tried to bleed the clock and hold on against a swarming Golden Flashes defense.
“We had a few blown coverages in the first half,” Sayville’s Nathan Casaburi said. “But we figured it out at halftime and bounced back in a big way.”
The comeback started with Murtha subbing at quarterback. His first play, a quarterback draw, went 87 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-7.
“Brock just took the game over,” Sands said.
Trailing 27-7, Cheshire threw to Casaburi, who made a leaping catch for 35 yards on fourth-and-5, moving the ball to East Islip’s 3. Murtha scored on a 3-yard run to make it 27-14 with 1:11 left in the third.
Cheshire (16-for-34, 208 yards) added a 13-yard TD pass to Ty Kolar with 3:50 left to make it 27-21 and set up the dramatic ending.
Murtha, who had 201 all-purpose yards and three scores, also batted down two passes and had nine tackles.
“We’ve been down before and kept a positive mindset,” Murtha said. “I never thought we were out of it.”