Tyler Martini said you need to look no further than his offensive line to find the key to Wantagh’s winning ways.
He followed the guys up front and rushed for 218 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns as Wantagh held off Bethpage, 20-13, in a Nassau Conference III football game.
Martini opened the scoring with a 14-yard scoring run and finished with a 41-yard touchdown scamper late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Wantagh improved to 2-0 and Bethpage fell to 1-1.
"It’s all about the offensive line and the execution in front of me," Martini said. "They make the giant holes that make it possible for our backs to run. This was a team win. Our other backs Mark Maniet and Sean Carlo had important runs that contributed to the win."
Wantagh coach Keith Sachs pointed to his lines on offense and defense as the difference maker in the showdown with a crosstown rival.
"We are really good on the lines and I thought we dominated," he said. "But it was so hot on the turf, I was concerned with our lack of depth. Luckily, it was never a problem as we worked our way through it."
Wantagh threatened to score on its second possession. But on third down and goal from the Bethpage five, defensive back Justin Crumb made a leaping interception in the end zone to halt the drive. Crumb was in man coverage and went high above the receiver to pick off quarterback Joe Legovich’s pass late in the first quarter.
After another defensive stop, Wantagh took over at the Bethpage 48. Martini keyed an eight-play, 48-yard march with a 14-yard touchdown run around the right end. Cavit Ireland added the kick for the 7-0 lead with 6:16 left in the half. Martini carried four times for 44 yards and three first downs on the drive.
"There was some timely kick out and lead blocks," Martini said.
After the defense forced another three-and-out, Wantagh went on a nine-play, 86-yard touchdown drive. Martini keyed the move when he rumbled 53 yards for one first down to the Bethpage 28. However, the Bethpage defense stiffened in time to force a fourth down and goal from the six. Wantagh went deep into the playbook for a fourth down play selection that gave them a two-score lead.
Wantagh lined up for a short field goal. The snap went to Legovich, the holder, who lateraled to Anthony Reale, coming in motion behind the kicker. As Reale rolled right looking for a receiver he tucked the ball and ran inside the pylon for the touchdown with 10 seconds left in the half. Ireland added the kick and Wantagh led 14-0 at the half.
Bethpage made it a game in the fourth quarter when quarterback Luke Galgano hit Brian Luzzi for touchdown passes of 42 and 28 yards on consecutive possessions to cut the lead to 14-13 with 4:55 left. Before the excited Bethpage crowd could settle back in their seats, middle linebacker Liam Casey spoiled the celebration when he burst through the middle of the offensive line and blocked the extra point kick, denying Bethpage the tie.
"I came hard through the A gap and got all ball," said Casey, who also had a key fourth quarter sack.
Wantagh’s Joe Martin recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Bethpage 46 and two plays later Martini went over left tackle, followed a block from Franco Valentino, and cut back across the face of the defense for a 41-yard touchdown run for the final margin.
"We have to clean it up," said Bethpage coach Roddy McCoy. "The game was won in the trenches. We challenged our guys at the half and they responded. But we need to play all four quarters."