Jeremy Ruckert of Lindenhurst celebrates a touchdown with teammates Corey...

Jeremy Ruckert of Lindenhurst celebrates a touchdown with teammates Corey Voorneveld and Justin Zotto during a Suffolk I football game against Connetquot on Sept. 27, 2017, in Lindenhurst. Credit: Anna Sergeeva

As opening statements go, this one made quite a first impression.

On the first play from scrimmage, Lindenhurst linebacker Corey Voorneveld tipped a pass high into the air that was grabbed by linebacker Jeremy Ruckert and returned 12 yards for a touchdown.

“Five seconds into the game and we’ve got points on the board. What a way to start a game,” said Voorneveld, a junior.

The points kept coming, 31 of them in the first quarter as host Lindenhurst walloped Connetquot, 45-12, Wednesday night in Suffolk I.

“Before the game, coach (Damon) Sinicropi said we hadn’t scored a defensive touchdown in a while and we needed to get one,” Ruckert said after his team improved to 4-0. “Who knew it would be the first play of the game?”

It only got worse after that for the Thunderbirds (2-2). Justin Zotto made the first of three long punt returns, this one 26 yards. Three plays later, Nick Anzalone hit Dilon Smith on a slant for a 20-yard touchdown pass. Ruckert kicked his second of five extra points for a 14-0 lead.

The Bulldogs needed only four plays to go 67 yards on their next possession, highlighted by an Anzalone-to-Zotto hookup for 39 yards and a 44-yard screen pass to Rick Conway for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 7:03 left in the first. “It was all about quick reads,” said Anzalone, who completed 12 of 23 passes for 195 yards and three scores. “Everyone came on the screen so I had to throw it before Ricky even turned around. It was a rainbow pass.”

Lindenhurst found several more pots of gold. After a 25-yard punt return by Zotto, Anzalone found Ruckert deep down the right sideline for a 29-yard touchdown. “Me and Nick have been working on stretching the field,” said Ruckert, who caught six for 69 yards. “He knows where to put it. This was a statement game for me to show I’m not just a possession receiver.”

Ruckert added a 31-yard field goal for a 31-0 lead after one. The Bulldogs nearly scored another defensive touchdown in the second quarter when Conway made an interception and returned it 80 yards for an apparent score. A holding penalty nullified that, but Cordell Fontana scored on a 33-yard run that made it 38-0.

“Looking back, I think scoring five seconds into the game gave us a big lift,” Ruckert said.

Voorneveld, who batted down another pass, made an interception himself after a deflection and recovered a fumble, said he wasn’t blitzing on the opening play. “I was in outside contain but I just read the quarterback’s eyes,” he said. “I tipped it and saw Jeremy right there for the pick-6. That’s a first for me.”

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