Keith Winfrey jogged to the locker room at halftime with a lot on his mind.
The four-year varsity starter had seen a few firsts for the Floyd football team, and he wasn’t happy about it.
The unwelcome firsts: Undefeated Floyd trailed for the first time all season. The Colonials turned the ball over three times in the half. And Floyd was penalized for twice as many yards as Ward Melville.
Somehow, the Colonials picked themselves up and scored two touchdowns to forge a four-point halftime lead. It still wasn’t good enough for Winfrey.
“It was time to stand up,” he said after Floyd’s 34-17 victory in the Suffolk I championship game at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium. “It was time to check ourselves. I wanted a county title as a senior as much as anything. We needed to show up. And I made sure our guys came out fired up.”
He did a good job.
Floyd pounded the football behind its massive offensive line for 211 rushing yards in the second half and scored on three of five possessions.
It was Floyd’s 11th Suffolk title in the past 18 years, all under coach Paul Longo. Floyd (11-0) will meet Freeport (11-0) for the Long Island Class I title at noon Saturday at Hofstra University.
“Keith Winfrey inspired the locker room at the half,” nose guard Gary Anderson said. “He’s been our team leader for years. He’s always looked out for his teammates and led by example.”
The second half didn’t start well for the Colonials, though. On the first play from scrimmage, Ward Melville’s JJ Laap, the state leader in interceptions, grabbed his second pick of the game and 10th of the season. He returned it 33 yards, and a 15-yard penalty for a late hit set up Ward Melville at the Floyd 14.
“We played them straight up and made some big plays in the secondary,” Laap said. “We blanketed the receivers and took away the passing game.”
On fourth-and-10, Laap outmuscled the Floyd secondary and caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Trey Berry. Tommy Dellaporta’s kick gave Ward Melville (9-2) a 17-14 lead with 10:34 left in the third quarter.
“We came out on all cylinders and I don’t think many people gave us a fighting chance,” Ward Melville coach Chris Boltrek said. “We played with confidence and it was a battle. Their defensive line made some big plays.”
From that point on, though, it was all Floyd.
The Colonials responded with an eight-play, 57-yard drive capped by Mack Driver’s 1-yard touchdown run for a 21-17 lead with 7:12 left.
“The line was moving them back and I was slashing through the defense,” said Floyd’s Nick Silva, who had 218 yards and a TD on 28 carries. “Ward Melville came to play and they’re a real good team. We faced some adversity and I thought it was a test of our character.”
Winfrey stymied Ward Melville on its next possession. The defensive end charged off the right end, deflected Berry’s pass into the air and made the interception at the Patriots’ 19.
Later, after Silva ripped through the defense for 48 yards, Floyd took a 27-17 lead with 10 seconds left in the third quarter on Silva’s 12-yard run.
“Nick’s a special runner, very hard to tackle in the open field, and gets so many yards after contact,” Longo said. “And our line was really motivated to take the game over. We didn’t play well in the first half and Ward Melville came out strong. I was proud of the way we hung in there in that first half.”
Ward Melville opened a 10-0 lead with 5:12 left in the first half when on fourth-and-2, Berry hit Steve Germain with an 8-yard pass over the middle and he lateraled to Jack Gillen, who raced 20 yards for the touchdown. Dellaporta had kicked a 35-yard field goal to open the scoring.
Floyd’s Ronale Thomas scored on a 60-yard run to make it 10-7. Jordan Clinton recovered the ensuing onside kick, and four plays later, Driver hit Tyshawn Lopez with a 34-yard touchdown pass for a 14-10 halftime lead.
“This was a team win,” Anderson said. “We came together.”