Friday, 07 December 2012 00:00
Fresh off defeating the Wantagh Warriors for the Nassau County Conference II Championship, the Garden City Trojans won Island-wide bragging rights by overcoming Riverhead High School’s Blue Waves on Saturday, Dec. 1. With Riverhead’s only hopes lying on a defensive stand on third-and-four with zero timeouts remaining, Garden City’s QB Brett Stewart took the snap and scampered to the left, shoulder charging a defender to narrowly gain the first down. The clutch run from the junior QB effectively ended the game as the Trojans of Garden City were able to run out the clock to the 29-16 victory to win their first Long Island Championship since 2009.
The Trojan defense— led by Scott D’Antonio—played a phenomenal second half, shutting out the powerful Riverhead offense, with RB Jeremiah Cheatom leading the charge as he rushed for 224 yards on the day—only 26 of which came in the second half.
“We made some adjustments,” said Garden City Head Coach Tom Flatley. “We felt it was better to shift to a 50 defense against some things. Fortunately they didn’t pass the ball as well as we saw on film.”
Those adjustments by the Garden City coaching staff helped turn a 16-7 halftime deficit into a relatively easy 29-16 victory.
After forcing a punt to open the second half, the Trojans had a rapid two-play scoring drive which was capped by a 24-yard touchdown from Stewart to Ed Blatz, who recorded eight catches for a total of 142 yards, to cut the deficit to 16-14.
The Trojan defense became airtight from that point on forcing another punt on a three-and-out. Stewart rushed for 19 yards on the next drive but was ended by a missed 35-yard field goal.
The defense hung tough, getting the ball back to the offense at midfield. At that point, Stewart displayed his superior competitiveness by turning a bad snap into a fantastic 26-yard hookup with Blatz to put the ball inside the 10-yard line.
After RB Scott D’Antoni ran for a short gain, Stewart took the snap, faked a handoff and ran to the left, beating three defenders to the end zone to give Garden City the lead.
Rather than kicking the extra point, Flatley called for a fake that was executed perfectly and caught by Kyle Shramko in the end zone to give the Trojans a six-point lead.
The Blue Wave came back and appeared to have the Trojans on their heels, until the defense forced a fumble and recovered it to kill the drive and the momentum.
They capitalized by putting together a 10-play drive that was capped with Stewart’s fourth TD of the day to essentially put the game out of reach.
Stewart put on a clinic in the game, rushing for 138 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 199 yards passing and two touchdowns.
“He’s just an athlete, he loves to play,” said Flatley regarding his star QB. “He’s a throwback to the kids of the older days. He practices the way he plays. He never gets up slow, there’s some kind of gene in his body.”
High praise from a coach who has become synonymous with dominating Nassau County Conference-II. Flatley has now won five Long Island Championships, appearing in 13 since its inception in 1992.
For Garden City, it has nearly been a rite of passage to appear in championship football games. They were coming off back-to-back losses in the Long Island Championship, however, as they were upset by the surprising Suffolk County champions of 2011, Newfield, in a 14-7 stunner.
They faced the tough task of replacing the production and leadership of 21 graduating seniors from that year. In typical fashion, they filled in their spots and ran through Nassau County. The Trojans, 11-1, had their only loss handed to them by MacArthur on October 27. Since that time, the Trojans reeled off four consecutive games, surprising most prognosticators along the way.
“This one was probably the most unexpected,” said Flatley regarding their previous Long Island Championships.
The Trojans have proven that they can never be counted out regardless of what type of obstacle they face along the way. Flatley’s boys continue to win football game no matter how many times they are counted out.