Great teams find a way to win. And Sayville found a way.
With a large Homecoming Day crowd in full throat and heavy rains peppering the grassy stadium field in Sayville, the home team snatched victory from defeat.
Trailing gritty Westhampton by five points and staring at a fourth-and-10 from its own 49, the Golden Flashes never flinched.
Quarterback Jake Tripptree took the shotgun snap and scanned the field to find halfback Kyle Messina sprinting behind the Hurricanes' secondary.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Tripptree said. “But there was Kyle. He was wide open. I had to get the pass to him.”
Despite the rainy conditions, Tripptree threw a perfect pass out in front of Messina who pulled in the throw and sprinted 51 yards for the winning score with 2:23 left as Sayville rallied for a 19-18 win in a Suffolk Division III football game on Saturday.
The score set off a celebration on the Sayville sideline and in the bleachers where waterlogged fans shook the stands.
Kyle Messina catches a 56 yard touchdown pass from Jake Tripptree with 2:23 remaining and Sayville takes a 19-18 lead over Westhampton on a fourth down and 10 pass. This place is wild. pic.twitter.com/sRVMHg3tqr— Gregg Sarra (@Gregg_Sarra) October 14, 2023
“The cornerback came up in press coverage, so I changed my route and ran right by him hoping Jake would recognize me,” Messina said. “He put the pass right on me and I took off. They had no one in deep coverage. I know I was smiling when I ran past the official.”
There was a lot to smile about. Sayville remained unbeaten at 6-0 and crept closer to the top seed in the divisional playoffs. Tripptree completed 12 of 27 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. Messina gained 38 yards on 16 carries.
Westhampton needed one more big play on its final possession to steal a road win but Tripptree intercepted Will Gambino with 35 seconds remaining to seal it.
It was a crushing loss for Westhampton (4-2), which played a fantastic game only to see the win slip away in the waning moments.
“This was a game loaded with the excitement you’d expect from two great teams,” said Westhampton coach Brian Schaumloffel. “We tackled well. We were physical and hitting them hard. We made some great plays. Sayville made one more big play than us. We’re really hurting right now. We let it get away from us.”
Westhampton had forged an 18-13 lead with 6:07 left when wide receiver Kevin Smith made a diving catch in tight coverage of a Gambino pass in the end zone. The Hurricanes had wiped out a 13-12 deficit and were seemingly on their way to victory.
Gambino completed 16 of 27 passes for 227 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
“We didn’t seize the opportunity,” Schaumloffel said. “It’ll be a learning experience for us. But I am so proud of our effort and the way we came to play.”
It was fitting that Tripptree made the final stop for a Sayville defense that shut out Westhampton through the second and third quarters.
But the play before the theft was the key to halting the Hurricanes drive for a game-winning field goal attempt. Defensive tackle Landon Garrett burst through the O-line and sacked Gambino for a 15-yard loss to the Hurricanes 48.
"They see my size and don’t think I can run very fast,” Garrett said. “Now they know. I run really well for a big guy. I chased him down.”
It was Garrett’s third sack of the season.
“Landon is very athletic for a big guy,” said Sayville coach Reade Sands of the 6-4, 260-pound lineman. He doesn’t even know how good he is.”
Westhampton opened the scoring when Mike Lorusso drilled a 26-yard field goal for a 3-0 first quarter lead. Sayville took the lead when Tripptree hit Luke Hansen for a 32-yard touchdown pass and a 7-3 lead.
The Hurricanes went back on top at the half when Gambino hit Nolan Michalowski for a 75-yard scoring strike and a 10-7 lead.
Sayville went up 13-10 when Hansen caught a 22-yard TD pass from Tripptree with 3:31 left in the third quarter.
Westhampton crept within one when Tripptree intentionally ran out of the end zone for a safety making it 13-12 with 6:41 left.
“This was a battle,” Sands said. “Our defense really stood up.”