It has been a while since West Hempstead played on a football field for a Nassau championship, a long while. Try 1986. It has been even longer since the Rams claimed the crown. Try 1982.
“We want to change the tradition at West Hempstead,” senior tight end/linebacker Brendan Close said. “We’ve been wanting to do that since we were children because we’ve been playing together since we were children. And now we get the chance to do that.”
The third-seeded Rams pulled away from No. 2 Seaford during the second half Thursday night in their Nassau IV semifinal and won, 36-20, at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
So they are 9-1 and indeed back in a title round for the first time in 36 years when the team was in Conference II. No. 1 North Shore, the 10-0 team that put the “1” in West Hempstead’s record with a 14-7 decision in Week 6, will be the opponent at 4 p.m. next Friday at Hofstra.
Can the Rams win this rematch and claim their first county title in 40 years?
“I believe we can,” senior running back Jonathan Balthazard said. “… We know each other inside and out. We’re there for each other. When we’re at our lowest, we build each other up, and we don’t let our heads get too high.”
They had just six offensive snaps in the first half but trailed just 7-6.
Then West Hempstead took off. It finished with 355 yards on the ground. Senior running back A’Lorenz Chatman carried 11 times for 165 yards, including an 80-yard TD, and Balthazard ran six times for 116 yards and two scores.
“You see our backs,” coach Dom Carre said. “They’re big, strong, fast. They see a crack; they hit it and go.”
Sean Costello, who threw for 171 yards and one score and ran for two TDs, carried the ball in from the 5 for Seaford (7-3) with 9:08 left. Connor Lochner’s PAT cut the Rams’ lead to 22-20.
But Balthazard ran it in from the 4 with 5:05 on the clock for an eight-point advantage. The Rams tried to run for two and failed. So it was still a one-score game.
The Vikings then turned the ball over on downs, and Balthazard ended any comeback hopes, going on a 42-yard sprint to the end zone with 1:21 remaining.
“It’s Conference IV football; you’re playing 14, 15 kids,” Carre said. “It wears on you. And that’s what our offense does.”
Back in the first quarter, Chatman ran his 80-yard dash for a 6-0 advantage.
“The feeling during it was: ‘Don’t catch me. Please don’t catch me. Don’t catch me,’ ” Chatman said.
Chatman ran for the two-point conversion after Corey Pierre rushed for a 6-yard score on the opening drive of the second half. The Rams owned a 14-7 lead, and Seaford never could quite catch them from there.