Dylan Zahn was right on the money for Shoreham-Wading River, and his perfect pass delivered a Suffolk football championship.
Spotting Liam Leonard cutting across the middle of the Bayport-Blue Point defense, Zahn fired a strike that hit him in stride at midfield, and Leonard broke away for a 71-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 1:11 left that gave Shoreham-Wading River a 26-23 win in the Suffolk Division IV championship game Friday night before a crowd of 1,800 at Stony Brook University.
Zahn’s pass caught the Bayport defense with no deep help in man coverage.
"I still can’t believe it. I’m shaking, it’s so exciting," Zahn said. "We had our backs to the wall on fourth down. I saw no deep help in the secondary. But I still had to let the play develop and we had to execute. I’m in shock."
Leonard was equally surprised by the coverage.
"I was running a backside cross, and Dylan threw a great pass," he said. "And I caught it in stride and just kept running. They’d played great deep coverage all game and took away some of our plays. But not this one."
Bayport-Blue Point wasn’t through, though. When time ran out, the Phantoms had reached the Shoreham 4-yard line.
Shoreham-Wading River (10-1) avenged its only loss of the season and will play the winner of Saturday’s North Shore-Cold Spring Harbor game for the Long Island Class IV championship at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 27 at Stony Brook University. It was Shoreham’s seventh Suffolk title in the last eight years.
The Wildcats won three Long Island championships in a row from 2014-16 and added a fourth crown in 2019 when they pounded Seaford, 49-7.
Bayport-Blue Point (9-2) took a 23-19 lead with 8:49 left when Jameson Smith capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive with an 8-yard run and Sean Anglim converted his third extra-point kick.
The Phantoms stopped Shoreham’s next drive, forced a short punt and took over at their 31. Quarterback Brady Clark (14-for-22, 239 yards) passed 11 yards to Sean Druckenmiller and another 29 yards to Derek Varley as the Phantoms moved to the Shoreham 25. The drive stalled, though, as on fourth-and-5, Clark’s pass fell short of his intended receiver, turning the ball over on downs with 1:41 left.
Operating with no timeouts, Shoreham was called for a holding penalty on its first play, pushing the ball back to the 15.
"It wasn’t looking too good," said Leonard, who didn’t play football the previous two years. "That penalty was a killer. We couldn’t catch a break. We fought to the end and we found a way."
Zahn completed passes of 10 yards to Leonard and 4 yards to Ryan Wilson, but an incomplete pass set up the dramatic fourth-down strike.
"I was in the backfield pass-blocking," said Shoreham halfback Max Barone, who ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. "It took me a second to realize what was happening after Dylan threw the pass. It was awesome."
After Shoreham’s go-ahead touchdown, Bayport took over at its 43 and Clark completed four straight passes to the Wildcats’ 19. His next two passes fell incomplete. With six seconds left, he found Varley all alone on the visitors’ sideline at the 7. Varley tried to dodge inside the converging defense and was smothered by three defenders, led by Dylan Kiely, at the Wildcats’ 4 as time expired.
The teams traded first-half touchdowns as Shoreham took a 19-14 lead. Barone scored on two 2-yard runs and a 3-yard run and Gavin Locascio had touchdown runs of 6 and 2 yards for the Phantoms. Shoreham dominated time of possession, running 42 offensive plays to Bayport’s 13.
"The only thing that matters is the final score," Barone said. "But to win on such a clutch play — that’s even more memorable."