The Connetquot offense didn't have an easy time running the ball against Longwood Friday night. The T-Birds' leading rusher Joe Zuco had 13 carries for just 43 yards with 6:46 left.
But on fourth-and-1 at their own 32 with 4:51 left and trailing by a point, Zuco took a handoff and burst through for a 27-yard gain.
Zuco continued to move the chains and scored on a 2-yard run with 1:15 remaining to lift No. 3 Connetquot to a 12-7 win over host No. 2 Longwood in a Suffolk League I semifinal.
Connetquot (8-2) will play No. 4 Lindenhurst at 7 p.m. Friday for the Division I championship at Stony Brook University. Lindenhurst upset top-seeded Floyd, 24-21, to end the Colonials' Long Island-record 42-game win streak.
"I just wanted to go with a dive," Zuco said of the fourth-down conversion. "We were running away from [Longwood's] Moses White and I sprung free for a big gain."
Said Longwood coach Chris Meyer: "Connetquot did a great job. That was a championship drive. That fourth-and-1 really hurt us. [Zuco] is a tough runner and that run broke our backs."
The 13-play, 78-yard drive took 5:31 off the clock. Zuco had nine carries for 68 yards on the winning drive.
"They clogged the hole," Zuco said, "but I just leaped over. I wasn't doing too great most of the game. The field was real slippery. We just went north and south on that drive."
"We dug down deep," Connetquot senior Jeremy Leggiero said. "It all starts with the offensive line. They started to dominate and the backs just followed the holes. Our defense played well the whole game. They kept us in it."
Longwood (7-3), which defeated Connetquot 20-19 to open the season, took over at its own 33 with 1:10 left, but on a third-and-17 play, Jon Sternbach intercepted a pass to seal the win.
Connetquot's Michael Pellegrino returned the opening kickoff 35 yards to the 50. Two plays later, Ryan Andersen hit Sternbach, who hurdled a defender at the 35 and outran the defense for a 45-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead.
Longwood had a great opportunity when Nick Esposito recovered a fumble. Longwood had a first-and-goal from the 8 but failed to score on four runs.
With 57 seconds left in the first half, Longwood's Eddie Wess hooked up with Tommy Scala for a 65-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 6. Jaelisa Rehal's extra point made it 7-6.
Suffolk League I semifinal
Connetquot 6 0 0 6-12
Longwood 7 0 0 0-7
C - Sternbach 45 pass from Andersen (kick failed)
L - Scala 65 pass from Wess (Rehal kick)
C - Zuco 2 run (run failed)