Billy the Kid rode in from Reno, Nevada, last summer, giving Syosset's offense a dangerous trigger finger at the quarterback position. And Thursday night, as the seconds ticked down on the Braves' season, William Hogan cocked his right arm, took aim and scored a direct hit on a moving target.
Hogan's hero was Long Island's most productive receiver, Michael Elardo, who outmaneuvered safety Brian Kavanagh in the end zone for a spectacular 27-yard touchdown reception with 11 seconds left that gave No. 6 Syosset a thrilling 36-30 victory over No. 4 East Meadow in a Nassau I semifinal at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
"It was a hitch-and-go. Mike's made big plays all year," said Hogan, who moved to Syosset in late July. "We knew we had to make something happen. I threw it up there and just hoped."
Elardo, who now has a Long Island-best 1,232 receiving yards, made a quick double-cut to get past the first defensive back. "I knew there would be double coverage," said Elardo, who caught seven passes for 164 yards. "I saw the ball in the air and I knew the safety would come up for an interception or to try to bat it down. So I cut right in front of him."
Hogan was terrific, completing 17 of 27 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns -- including a 64-yard connection with Elardo in the third quarter that tied the score at 22 -- and rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
The Braves (6-4) will face Baldwin in the Nassau I final at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hofstra. East Meadow finished 8-2.
The Jets' ball-control offense produced 316 rushing yards and allowed them to take a 30-22 lead with 1:02 left in the third quarter on a 5-yard run by Johnny Wilson (126 yards, 21 carries). Wilson also tacked on his third two-point conversion run of the night. Kavanagh added 104 yards.
The Braves made it 30-28 when Hogan danced his way to a 43-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw in the first minute of the fourth quarter. But Syosset failed on a conversion pass that would have tied the score.
East Meadow had a chance to put the game away, driving to the Syosset 27 with 2:21 left. On fourth-and-3, quarterback Anthony Love-Kemper faked a handoff and dashed 27 yards for a touchdown that was nullified by a holding penalty. On fourth-and-10, Syosset held.
"It was nerve-wracking,'' Elardo said, "but once we got that stop, I knew we'd score."
Syosset's winning drive included a 26-yard run by Hogan and a huge 15-yard pass to Ian Berg on fourth-and-8 at the Jets' 42. "I was trying not to think too much about what was going on," Hogan said of the frantic finish. "I just wanted to keep it simple."