Ward Melville QB Andrew Belli runs 34 yards for the...

Ward Melville QB Andrew Belli runs 34 yards for the touchdown against Longwood in the Suffolk Division I finals, Saturday, November 19, 2022 at LaValle Stadium. Credit: George A Faella

Ward Melville has some magic going when it steps on the field, magic that hasn’t flowed through its program like this since 1987.

Andrew Belli put that on display Saturday afternoon when he eluded the rush and tossed up a jump ball to Trevor Murray, who came down with it for a 15-yard touchdown, the Patriots’ fifth TD of the game.

“Ever since the playoffs, the team has bonded and everything’s clicking. I was getting rushed and I had to get out of the pocket. I have trust in Murray and I gave him a chance to make a play,” said Belli, who threw for three touchdowns and ran for one as Ward Melville defeated Longwood, 34-19, in the Suffolk I final at LaValle Stadium.

The Patriots earned the program’s first county championship since 1987. Ward Melville will take on Nassau I champion Farmingdale on Saturday at LaValle Stadium in the Long Island Class I championship game.

“It’s exciting. I’m playing for the best team on Long Island,” Belli said. “We’re going to work hard this week and go 100% preparing.”

Longwood moved within 27-13 when it opened the third quarter with a six-minute scoring drive capped by Anthony Ordonez’s 4-yard touchdown run. The Lions then forced a three-and-out and drove 57 yards before Ward Melville’s defense stepped up and helped to seal the win.

On second down, the Patriots stopped a run for a loss of 2 yards. Joshua Rettig picked up his second sack of the game for a 16-yard loss and Aidan Folkman intercepted a long fourth-down try.

“My coach always tells me if they don’t block you and they block down, look for that bootleg,” Rettig said. “In my mind, it just clicked that he’d try to pass, and I hit him for a loss of 16.”

It didn’t take long for the Patriots to take a 7-0 lead. Belli connected with Lorenzo Velez for a 35-yard gain and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Velez 33 seconds into the game.

“It’s all about confidence and trust. I trust my coaches and QB to get me the ball,” Velez said. “Then I trust in my hands and route-running to get it done.”

Longwood punted from its own end zone later in the quarter and Brody Morgan returned it 35 yards for the touchdown. Jackson Weber’s extra point made it 14-0.

After a 1-yard touchdown run by Longwood’s Caleib Corbett, the Patriots were back on the attack. Belli weaved through the Lions’ defense for a 20-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Velez later in the quarter, and suddenly Ward Melville was ahead 27-7.

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