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Floyd holds off Whitman in OT thriller to capture third straight Suffolk title

Floyd QB LaDuke Harris celebrates his game winning

Floyd QB LaDuke Harris celebrates his game winning touchdown against Whitman, Friday, April 23, 2021 in the Suffolk I championship game. Credit: George A Faella

Floyd free safety Nick Muelthaler said he felt like he was in a movie. The junior defensive back watched Whitman’s potential game-winning kick from 40 yards in regulation sail over his head and toward the goalpost.

"It felt like slow motion and we were in a movie," Muelthaler said. "My heart was racing because he kicked it really good and I thought it was over."

Josh Arevalo’s long field-goal attempt into a heavy crosswind was long enough but just wide left.

The miss gave Floyd life and sophomore quarterback LaDuke Harris made the second chance in overtime count.

Floyd took the lead when Harris went around left end, picked up a downfield block and dived into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown run. The Colonials sealed the win when defensive back Jordan O’Brien deflected a pass into the hands of teammate Mike Turner for the interception to turn the Wildcats away and set off a wild celebration.

The big defensive play helped Floyd secure its third straight Suffolk title with a 28-21 win over Whitman in the Conference I final before a crowd of more than 500 in Mastic Beach. It was the Colonials' fourth title in five years.

"I got my hand on it and popped it from the receiver’s hands," O’Brien said. "And Turner was there for the pick."

Arevalo was inconsolable and surrounded by teammates after the game.

"I hit it really good," said Arevalo, whose kick appeared long enough to be good from 50 yards. "This is really such a tough loss."

The day belonged to Muelthaler, the feisty defensive back, who had two interceptions and two pass breakups. He also recovered a Floyd fumble on the offensive side in the red zone.

"Nick has a nose for the ball like no one I’ve ever had," said Floyd coach Paul Longo, who coached his first overtime game in his career. "This was a crazy game against an outstanding Whitman football team. I’m so proud of our guys getting through such a tough season with a total team effort. This was very satisfying."

Muelthaler was in the right spot on the Colonials' biggest drive of the game in the third quarter. The teams had traded touchdowns throughout an entertaining first half and were tied at 14.

On a run play, Harris was drilled by middle linebacker Liam Villanti and lost the ball at the Whitman 10. A mad scramble ensued and Muelthaler recovered the loose ball to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, halfback Jezayd Hall bulled his way into the end zone for a 5-yard TD. Brian Lombardo added the kick for the 21-14 lead with 1:48 left in the third quarter.

Whitman never backed down. The Wildcats took over at their own 15-yard line and junior quarterback Nicholas Bottoni engineered a seven-play, 85-yard drive, capped by his 9-yard scoring run with 6:10 left in the game. Arevalo's extra point tied it at 21.

"We’ll be back because we’ll just keep getting better," said Whitman coach Robin Rosa through tears. "I’m so emotional right now for these guys. I’m so proud of them. It’s a very hard one to lose – we were so close."

Floyd (4-1) opened the scoring with an 11-play, 64-yard touchdown drive. Hall punched it in from a yard out on fourth down and Lombardo added the kick to make it 7-0. Hall carried seven times for 54 yards on the drive and finished with 143 yards on 29 carries. Whitman (4-2) responded with a 10-play, 81-yard scoring march capped by AJ Evans' 41-yard run down the home sideline to tie it at 7.

Whitman, which was looking for its first Suffolk I title since 1984, took its first lead with a 10-play, 81-yard scoring march, keyed by a 47-yard completion to the Colonials 31. Bottoni (15-for-28 for 245 yards) capped the drive with a 14-yard scoring strike to Chris Silverio. Arevalo’s kick made it 14-7 with 3:56 left in the half.

Floyd answered on its next possession. On third-and-2, Harris faked Hall into the line and broke around the left end for a 68-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds left in the half to tie it at 14.

"Back and forth all game," Longo said. "I’m glad we got the last one."

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