West Hempstead running back Bruce Gibbs said he tries to make the most of his opportunities when he gets them on the field. Saturday afternoon, he continued with that philosophy.
On the opening kickoff, Gibbs remained at the 20-yard line until the ball slid into his hands. Gibbs thought it was going to be the usual return for a few yards. But after one missed tackle by the Island Trees defense, then another, Gibbs kept running.
"I didn't expect that," said Gibbs. "I saw the hole and I took advantage of it."
That opening 80-yard touchdown sparked a 35-14 victory by West Hempstead yesterday in a Nassau IV football game.
Ground and pound seemed to be the mindset of the Rams, thanks to running back Tayvon Hall who finished with 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
According to Rams coach Dominic Carre, Hall is part of the plan both offensively and defensively. "We use him as a decoy," Carre said. "No matter where we line up, he's going to do well."
After West Hempstead struck first, Island Trees scored on its opening possession when Bulldogs quarterback Ryan Carroll threw a screen pass to Dan Connelly for a 65-yard score.
Island Trees' defense played well in the first half, causing several unsuccessful third down conversions by West Hempstead, which went into the half leading 13-7.
"We stopped them cold," Bulldogs coach Mike Bonsignore said. "They did nothing in the first half. Our defensive game plan was there."
Some of the Rams players walked into the locker room confused about why they did not convert plays, but quarterback Michael Petrizzo knew what the problem was.
"We were sleeping a little bit," Petrizzo said. "But we didn't let our heads get down. I'm glad we woke up."
After a 5-yard touchdown run by Petrizzo and a two-point conversion for the Rams five minutes into the third quarter, the Bulldogs came right back with a 34-yard kickoff return.
But the game changed when Carroll was intercepted on the subsequent play and West Hempstead took over on its own 30-yard line. A few plays later, replacement quarterback Akil Phillip scored to push the Rams' lead to 28-7, putting the game out of reach.