JC Canobbio waited a long time for his number to be called. The senior wide receiver knew that the trick play, with his name all over it and called at the right time, would bring the Bulldogs a win. He was right.
His 13-yard touchdown pass on a wide receiver option with 4:23 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in Lindenhurst’s 21-17 victory over West Islip in the Suffolk II football championship game Friday night at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium.
Trailing 17-14, Lindenhurst dialed up the special play it had saved for the biggest moment of the season. From the West Islip 13-yard line, quarterback Mike Varela lateraled to halfback Mike Anderson, who pitched the ball to wide receiver Canobbio on an end around.
Canobbio fired a lefthanded bullet to Varela, who had snuck out into the flat. Varela caught the pass and dived headlong into the pylon for the winning touchdown as the defense converged on him.
“We’ve had that drawn up for so long,” Canobbio said. “We never felt it was the right time to call the play. And the coach thought this was the right time. And I’m so happy that he did.”
Lindenhurst had to withstand a furious West Islip comeback attempt in the final four minutes.
The first West Islip drive traveled 41 yards before it was stopped by an outstanding interception by Will Ruckert at the Lindenhurst 30. Ruckert read the screen pass to his side of the field and made a juggling one-handed interception with 1:33 remaining in the game.
“Coach always tells me to trust my reads,” Ruckert said. “And I always read screen first before I go after the quarterback.”
West Islip used three timeouts and forced a Lindenhurst punt with 1:03 left, and the Lions had one more chance for a miracle from their own 40.
Mike LaDonna threw a 39-yard pass to Max Albanese to the Lindy 21. He found Pat Cunningham for a one-handed grab at the 5. As time ticked away, the officials called an illegal procedure and moved the ball back to the 10.
The Lindenhurst defense then stuffed a running play and Morreale and Corey Voorneveld converged on Cunningham to knock away a pass intended for him in the end zone. On the final play, LaDonna was tackled by Dean Morreale at the 5-yard line as time expired.
“Our defense has been doing a great job and battling,” Lindenhurst coach Nick Lombardo said. “We had some time-consuming drives to keep LaDonna off the field, and that helped. But we had a lot of heart at the end.”
Lindenhurst will meet Garden City (11-0) for the Long Island Class II championship at noon Friday at Stony Brook University.
The game was intense through all four quarters.
West Islip (10-1) opened the scoring when LaDonna took advantage of a short field, driving the Lions 43 yards in three plays. He ran up the middle for 29 yards and then another 13 before bulling his way into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run. Bob DiCapua added the extra-point kick to make it 7-0 with 5:56 left in the first quarter.
Lindenhurst (9-2) responded with a 16-play, 67-yard march capped by Anderson’s 7-yard touchdown run.The teams traded punts before Lindenhurst pinned West Islip at its 5-yard line midway through the second quarter. LaDonna eventually scored on a 76-yard run to make it 14-7.
Shortly after a West Islip fumble, the Lions drove 38 yards in 11 plays before Jack Hogan scored on a 1-yard run.
The West Islip defense came up with a big play to regain the lead. Christian Esperon stepped in front of a pass on a deep out, intercepted it and returned it 53 yards to the Lindenhurst 10-yard line. The Lions had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by DiCapua with 11:57 left in the game for a 17-14 lead.