THUNDERBIRDS WIN 17 TO 3. SUFFOLK COUNTY CHAMPS!
Both the offensive and defensive lines for the Connetquot football team don't instill fear in opponents just by looking at them. They're not the biggest players, but you might need a magnifying glass to find a team with tougher units.
Connetquot exhibited dominance on both sides of the ball to defeat No.4 Lindenhurst, 17-3, Friday night in the Suffolk Division I championship at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium.
Connetquot (9-2) won its first county title since 1994 and will play Freeport in the Long Island Class I championship at noon Nov. 28 at Hofstra.
The drive that epitomized Connetquot's toughness came in the second quarter. Lindenhurst (8-3) had seven chances to score at the Connetquot 5, including four opportunities from the 1 and was stymied. On the fourth-down play, Joe Vespier took a pitch to his left and was stopped by Cody Elsis and Kurt Johnson.
"We knew we had to stop them, linebacker Jeremy Leggiero said. "We had to dig down deep. That was the biggest adrenaline rush ever. Our defensive line was incredible. Lindenhurst, which snapped Floyd's L.I.-record 42-game winning streak in the semifinals and scored 95 points in three games entering Friday, ran 17 plays and came away with nothing.
"It was unreal, Connetquot's John Smith said. "That stop was huge. The defensive line got real low and didn't allow the offensive line to block them. Both sides of the line have been doing great. We're not even that big. The defensive line is usually bigger than us and we just get low and execute. It's all technique.
Connetquot has been a quick-strike offense in the postseason. The T-Birds scored on the first play from scrimmage in the quarterfinals against Brentwood and scored on the second play from scrimmage in the semifinals against Longwood.
The T-Birds did it again. Joe Zuco, who had 23 carries for 175 yards, scored on a 72-yard run on the first play to make it 6-0.
"We talk about that all the time, Smith said. "We ask each other if we're going to score on the first, second or third play. We just come out so fired up and we want to score right away and set the tone.
Lindenhurst opened the second half with a three-and-out and Connetquot then went on a 10-play drive culminated by a 30-yard field goal by Justin Bertone with 5:39 left in the third quarter to make it 10-0.
Lindenhurst then drove to the T-Birds' 22. But on the 12th play of the drive, Joe Granata fumbled and Johnson recovered it for the T-Birds.
Lindenhurst cut it to 10-3 on a 28-yard field goal by Kevin Hartley with 6:54 left in the game. But Zuco scored on an 11-yard run to cap a nine-play, 80-yard drive with 2:29 left that took 6:14 off the clock and made it 17-3. Leggiero iced it with his second interception of the night on the next play from scrimmage, the fourth turnover forced by the defense.
"This is probably the worst game we played in the last two months and we picked a bad night to do it, Lindenhurst coach Rich Biancaniello said. "We didn't make things happen the way we normally do. We turned the ball over, which is uncharacteristic.
Connetquot pointed to the goal-line stop. "It pumped us up a lot, Johnson said. "I'm living a dream right now. Just happy to be going to the LIC.