Christian Esperon settled over the ball and placed both hands around it. The West Islip long snapper was about to fire the most important snap of his life.
Holder Patrick Cunningham knelt at the Lindenhurst 11-yard line, ready to receive the biggest snap of the season. Kicker Bobby DiCapua waited for that snap as the standing room only crowd roared in anticipation of the game-winning field-goal try.
There were six seconds left and West Islip, which had erased a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit on the road, was on the verge of an enormous comeback win and an opportunity to resurrect its bid for an undefeated season.
“I was ready to try a game-winner from 40 or 50 yards and the offense kept moving down the field and getting closer and closer,” DiCapua said. “I couldn’t wait to get out there and win it.”
DiCapua drilled the 21-yard field goal and West Islip came back for a thrilling 17-14 victory in a Suffolk Division II football game before a crowd of more than 3,000 on Friday night.
“I was pumped up,” DiCapua said. “They got me in position to make it happen.”
The kick marked the second time DiCapua won a game with a field goal in the waning moments as he beat Huntington last year in the same manner.
“He’s the Ice Man,” said West Islip coach Steve Mileti. “He’s got so much confidence. We just know he’s going to make it.”
The field goal capped a 17-point fourth quarter for West Islip, which improved to 6-0.
“We never give up, never,” said West Islip quarterback Mike LaDonna, who carried 30 times for109 yards. “Lindy had a great game plan and shut us down for three quarters but once we got the momentum it was all us.”
LaDonna scored on touchdown runs of 1 and 3 yards earlier in the fourth quarter.
‘He’s a workhorse,” Mileti said. “He usually breaks a few long touchdown runs but give Lindy’s defense credit, they were very good, and never allowed the big run.”
The first half offered a no-risk, tactical posture from both teams. Coaches strategically worked for advantageous field position and managed the clock. There were five straight punts and very little offense through the first 19 minutes of play.
And then West Islip drove from its 15 to the Bulldogs' 27 turning the ball over on downs when LaDonna was stopped a yard shy of the first down with 2:52 left in the half. LaDonna, who rushed for 54 yards on the march, was sacked by Jack Winey and Dean Morreale on a pivotal second-and-four, putting the ball back to the Bulldogs' 36.
Lindenhurst (4-2) responded with a 14-play, 73-yard drive. Quarterback Mike Varela shredded the Lions secondary, completing 5 of 7 passes for 58 yards and capped by a 10-yard touchdown strike to Artur Garmatiuk with 10 seconds left in the half. He used receivers Garmatiuk, JC Canobbio and halfback Mike Anderson on the drive. Andrew Weis kicked the extra point to make it 7-0.
The Bulldogs extended the lead in the third quarter. Varela threw a red zone interception at the West Islip 5, but the turnover was negated when the Lions were called for roughing the quarterback. On the next play, Varela dropped back, saw a seam up the middle, and darted into the end zone for the 14-0 lead with 6:17 left in the third quarter.
West Islip mounted its comeback in the fourth quarter.