It's not as if Steven Casali was invisible in the first half. He had rushed for 46 yards, made some tackles, deflected away a pass. But he wasn't dominating the way he thought he should, and the 6-2, 220-pound Sachem East senior wasn't happy.
"We call him 'The Beast.' He just changes into this guy that won't be denied," Sachem East coach Mark Wojciechowski said.
The beast was unleashed in the second half.
On the Flaming Arrows' first possession, Casali carried four times for all 65 yards of the drive, finishing it with a 26-yard burst up the middle that produced the final points in Sachem East's 18-7 victory over host Northport Sunday in a Suffolk I first-round playoff game.
After that, Casali controlled the clock on offense and was a tackling demon on defense as No. 6 Sachem East (5-4) upset No. 3 Northport (6-3), earning the chance to play No. 1 Connetquot next weekend in the county semifinals.
"It was a little change in strategy and a lot of determination," Casali said of his impressive second half in which he gained 131 of his 177 yards rushing. "We ran a few different plays and we were very physical."
Few players are more physical than Casali. When he hits the pile, the pile moves. His stiff-arm is lethal, he frequently lowers his shoulder and runs over people, and his legs never stop churning.
And that's just on offense. On defense, he's so good he has committed to Division I Massachusetts to play linebacker. On Sunday, he was especially tough on plays running away from him.
"How many times did he run somebody over on offense? How many times did he run a guy down on defense?" Wojciechowski said. "You don't want to get him mad."
Casali put East ahead 6-0 early in the first quarter when he powered in after Ken Whigham returned a fumble 42 yards to the 1. Northport answered with a slick Sean Gilroy-to-Brett Hall screen pass for a 51-yard touchdown. The PAT gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead that lasted until Danny Wolff hooked up with Brian Balsamo for a 19-yard touchdown with 36 seconds left in the first half.
Then Casali got mad, and Northport never could get even.