Tom Flatley has made quite a few good calls during his Hall of Fame coaching career. The longtime Garden City football coach retired last year. Or did he?
Flatley now stands above or in the press box recognizing defensive alignments and offensive sets for the Trojans. He's left the sideline but only to go to a higher vantage point and become the perfect mentor to first-year head coach Dave Ettinger.
Friday night in a pivotal Nassau Conference II game at MacArthur, Flatley put his stamp on the end of the game with the play call that cinched Garden City's 15-13 win in Levittown.
With 1:22 left, Flatley told Ettinger to have speedy quarterback Tim Schmelzinger run a naked bootleg on a critical second down to fool the defense and get the first down that would seal the win.
Schmelzinger faked a handoff to the left, reversed his field, beat the containment and raced down the visitors' sideline. And what he did next was also Flatley-like, which means just brilliant.
Schmelzinger ran to the 5-yard line and gave up the touchdown for the guaranteed win. He knelt and ended the play.
"I knew we could run the time off and win, so I stopped running," Schmelzinger said. "The touchdown didn't matter. There was no reason to score there and I respect MacArthur and their team -- it was all about the win."
Ettinger said it was typical of Schmelzinger to make such a smart play. And as far as Flatley's play call, "who would argue with him? I listen to [everything] he has for me."
The 76-yard run punctuated a game played in brutal conditions with northerly winds gusting to more than 40 mph and a steady, cold rain.
Garden City (4-0) opened the scoring when it capitalized on a poor long snap on MacArthur's first punt and the Trojans got the ball at the Generals' 16-yard line.
Two plays later, halfback Brian Haeffner, who had 145 yards on 27 carries, went on a sweep left for a 10-yard touchdown. Schmelzinger added the two-point conversion run for an 8-0 lead.
The GC defense came up with a big fourth-down stop on the Generals' ensuing possession. Halfback Vin Martino was stopped on a fourth-and-1 run by Haeffner and Dan Confort. But the Trojans couldn't get a two-score lead when MacArthur's defense showed grit.
Garden City reached the Generals' 4-yard line but couldn't score. On fourth-and-goal from the 4, Mike Rothberg tackled Schmelzinger for a 2-yard loss on the last play of the first quarter.
MacArthur quarterback Jimmy Kelleher mixed the run with two completed passes for a seven-play, 45-yard drive capped by his 1-yard TD sneak to make it 8-6 with 2:09 left in the half.
The teams traded third-quarter touchdowns as Garden City's Haeffner ripped off a 38-yard run for a score and the Generals' Martino, who had 134 yards on 27 carries, answered with a 10-yard TD run to make it 15-13.
MacArthur tried a 45-yard field goal with the wind but it came up short with 1:55 left. "It was miserable conditions," Ettinger said. "But we'll take the win."