West Babylon was not allowed to forget what happened against Sayville last season.
“There were signs all over the locker room that said ‘84-0.’ Coach texted us like six times in two minutes [on Friday] with the same thing: 84-0,” quarterback Marc Esposito said. “We lost 42-0 to Sayville in the first game and then they beat us by the same score in the playoffs. We didn’t like it. I’ve never been so mad going into a game in my life.”
Esposito and his teammates channeled that fury into a high-energy performance, building a 27-point third-quarter lead and then surviving a Sayville rally to score a thrilling 41-35 road victory Saturday in Suffolk III. Let the madness begin!
Esposito had a hand — and a foot — in much of the scoring. The 5-9, 180-pound senior threw for three touchdowns, ran for two more and kicked five extra points. “He’s an old-school tough kid and a great athlete,” said West Babylon coach Ron Langella, the man behind the motivational ploy. “We’ve got some West Babylon toughness back. We weren’t intimidated.”
But the Eagles (3-0) nearly were overtaken. They built a 34-7 lead with the help of two stunningly huge plays. Sayville (2-1), trailing 13-7 in the second quarter, appeared ready to grab the lead by driving to the Eagles’ 4. But an errant center snap put the football tantalizingly on the turf.
“I was going to just fall on it, but I didn’t see anyone around me,” defensive end Mike McMahon said of his 87-yard scoring jaunt. “I remembered all those scoop-and-score drills and practice and I decided to go for it. When I picked up the ball, there was no one in front of me.”
On Sayville’s next possession, linebacker Sam Drowns blocked his second punt and two plays later, Esposito scored from the 6 for a 27-7 halftime lead. “Game-changers,” Langella said of those plays.
West Babylon recovered an on-sides kick to start the second half, setting up Esposito for a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jason Fucci (six catches, 108 yards) that made it 34-7. Game over? Not quite. “It’s Sayville. They have a great tradition and a great program,” Langella said. “I knew they weren’t going away.”
Sure enough, Jacob Chesire, a senior who backed up All-Long Island quarterback Jack Coan for three years, demonstrated that he learned from the current Wisconsin backup. He completed 22 of 35 passes for 224 and four touchdowns and started the comeback with a 7-yard scoring pass to elusive James Lyons (11 catches, 103 yards) with 6:59 left in the third.
The Golden Flashes made it 34-21 on Chesire’s 20-yard touchdown toss to Curtis Russo. But after forcing a punt, Sayville could not convert a fourth-and-1 at its 46. The Eagles took advantage of the short field to score what proved to be the decisive touchdown on Esposito’s 42-yard deep ball to Vin Martucci down the left sideline. He had scored on a 26-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter on the same pattern.
But again Sayville rallied. A 40-yard kickoff return by Jacob Wolmart led to an 18-yard TD pass from Chesire to Ian Azzara. Then West Babylon fumbled a short kickoff and Sayville recovered at the Eagles’ 31. Chesire’s 4-yard rollout pass to Max Kolar made it 41-35 with 8:05 left. Gulp.
Esposito missed a 24-yard field goal that gave Sayville one last chance. Chesire drove the Golden Flashes to the West Babylon 36, but on fourth-and-6 from the Sayville 46, Drowns blitzed, forcing an incompletion that erased the memories of 2016.
The madness had turned to gladness. Make that giddiness.