The final six minutes of Friday night’s Suffolk Division I football game between Ward Melville and host Sachem East couldn’t have gone much better for the Flaming Arrows.
Ryan Paolella jumped on a loose ball with Ward Melville driving in an attempt to come back from a one-score deficit, and Sachem East took full advantage of the fumble recovery. It totaled four first downs in the final 5:51 before entering victory formation, securing a 14-7 win.
“Our defense stepped up in a time it needed to step up,” coach Phil Torregrosa said after Sachem East improved to 5-2. “Our offense, I told them, ‘Just first downs. We need to grind it out right now.’ ”
Adriel Robinson, who rushed 17 times for 146 yards and the go-ahead touchdown with 8:21 left in the third quarter, took the first carry of the drive for 14 yards. His next run was negated by a holding penalty, but that was the only blip on Sachem East’s possession.
Robinson and Paolella alternated carries until Nick Stelling did the rest, rushing up the middle on quarterback keepers behind his impenetrable offensive line of Chris Villano, Dan Pearo, Tyler Hamrahi, Cameron Lynch and Tyler Price.
“Our line stepped up,” Torregrosa said. “I challenged them. I said, ‘This game is going to be won by you.’ They truly stepped up to that moment.”
Sachem East scored first, as Stelling dropped back, rolled right and scampered in for a 10-yard touchdown with 9:06 left in the second quarter. Tyler Bard’s PAT made it 7-0.
Ward Melville (4-3) answered with 48.1 seconds left in the half on a gadget play. Jack Gillen swept from left to right and received a handoff before planting his feet and firing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dan Cassera in the corner. Tommy Dellaporta knotted the score at 7 after the extra point.
The defense buckled down after Robinson’s touchdown run capped the six-play, 84-yard go-ahead drive. Ward Melville’s final three possessions ended in a punt, an interception by Paolella and a fumble recovery by Paolella.
Ryan Micheli recorded a sack and a blocked field goal, a 22-yard attempt that would have given the Patriots an early 3-0 lead.
“Our big guys up front get it done,” Micheli said. “Our secondary locks it down. But nothing’s possible without our defensive coordinator, Tom Pandolf.”
Micheli said he didn’t expect anything less from the defense, especially on Ward Melville’s final drive. The relentless pass rush and precision tackling were able to limit scoring chances for Ward Melville, even as Mike Fiore accrued 96 yards on 20 carries.
Then, like ground-and-pound teams do, Sachem East sealed it by running the ball and moving the chains.
“It couldn’t have been any better, Stelling said. “Even though we didn’t score, we got as many first downs as we needed to.”