It was the second quarter on Saturday when the game on the field between Floyd and Ward Melville finally approached the pre-game hype. The meeting of the Suffolk I unbeatens commanded all eyes in the days leading up to it. But for the first 18 minutes Ward Melville looked like it was in a steep uphill battle. Then over a span of a little more than five minutes JJ Laap struck twice to make it a contest.
The senior wide receiver/cornerback caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Trey Berry and then picked off Floyd quarterback Mack Driver’s pass and returned it 77 yards for a score. The Patriots had come alive.
Then came the Colonials ensuing possession. Zion Wellington went 27 yards down the sideline on the first play. And Driver hit Matt Wagner streaking for the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown. It was a spirit-crushing score and quieted Ward Melville for the remainder of the afternoon. Floyd went on to a 42-12 home victory and sole possession of first place in Division I.
“We call the play ‘sluggo,’" Wagner explained. “I make it look like I’m running a slant and then just cut up field. The pass was perfect — exactly where I needed it to be.”
“You have to be able to bounce back from the pick-six and we never feel knocked down like we can’t get up,” said Driver, who ran for 78 yards and was 6-for-14 passing for 125 yards and the score. “Wagner made a great play on the ball and we struck back. I knew a play like that would mess with all the motivation they had.”
In lot of ways this was a character win for Floyd (6-0). A leg injury in last weekend’s win over Central Islip put Nick Silva, the star running back and linebacker, in jeopardy for this contest. At game time, coach Paul Longo decided to play him only on defense. He would get in on offense if the Colonials were near the goal line.
Silva was in for only three offensive snaps Saturday. One was a one-yard dive for a touchdown and the other was a two-yard score where he went over the top of a pile of linemen.
“Silva is a great player and he has incredible vision from that spot on the field so we decided to use him there,” Longo said. “This was a week where we needed people to step up. On offense we were going to be without a four-year starter. But we have a lot of players who have played in some pretty big games and that showed through.”
Wellington and Tyshawn Lopez picked up that slack by rushing for 77 yards and 54 yards, respectively. Each ran for a touchdown.
“Those two had gotten some reps but this was really the chance for them to step up and do it,” Longo said. “They had a little experience but played like they had more.”
Laap had four receptions for 91 yards and Berry threw for 122 yards and one score. On defense, junior safety Dan Cassera had a standout game with four tackles behind the line of scrimmage on Floyd backs.
The Colonials’ defense really took Ward Melville’s last breath with its suffocating play in the third quarter. The Patriots snapped the ball 12 times in three possessions for minus-1 total yards of offense and no first downs.
“We have the kind of players who rise to the big occasions like this game — 5-0 against 5-0 — and you saw that,” Driver said. “We’re definitely playing with an LIC mindset this season.”