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Sachem?s Wojo Comes Off Line To Tackle Hansen
Copyright Newsday Inc., 1985


Opponents might have been unable to pronounce his name, but they certainly have felt the presence of MarkWojciechowski in Sachem's football lineup during the past two seasons.

Wojciechowski, a 6-1, 240-pound senior who plays tackle on offense and nose guard on defense, has been named the winner of Newsday's 1985 Hansen Award, given annually to the most outstanding high school football player in Suffolk County. A panel of coaches and officials selected him from a list of 17 candidates.

Wojciechowski (pronounced Wo-ja-how-ski) is only the ninth lineman and the second Sachem player (quarterback Brian Dehler won in 1977) among 26 Hansen winners since the award was established in 1960. Recruiters from Michigan, Maryland, Syracuse, Villanova, Virginia, Rutgers, North Carolina, Temple and Holy Cross all have displayed interest in the player with the lengthy name.

Also a heavyweight wrestler and discus thrower for the track team, he has been called "Wojo" by coaches, teammates and even his English teachers since fifth grade, when the nickname originally was bestowed upon him by the father of defensive back John Burton, his neighbor and childhood friend in Farmingville.

Although Wojciechowski's parents at first balked at the idea of his playing football in junior high - "My mother was afraid he might hurt somebody else," brother Gregory said - the family has become a big booster of Sachem football. His retired father, Julian, leads the family cheering section. Gregory, a 33-year-old corrections officer with the Suffolk sheriff's department, works double shifts during the week so he can have the time off to attend Saturday games. Sister Dawn, 16, writes a weekly good-luck message in her BOCES school computer class and leaves it on his pillow the morning before each game.

And for the 22-0 victory over Northport Oct. 26, twin 7-year-old nieces, Michele and Melissa, came dressed in replicas of Sachem cheerleader uniforms handsewn by Mark's mother, Kathleen. That was the same day that Mark was named the school's Homecoming King from among a possible 1,500 candidates.

Mrs. Wojciechowski, 57, suffered a heart attack two weeks ago while visiting another daughter in Florida. "When we called the night before Thanksgiving to tell her the news about the Hansen Award, she was thrilled," Gregory said, "She told us, That's the best medicine I could have ever gotten. "

Mark began playing football in seventh grade after his elementary school gym teacher, Tom Stevenson, convinced him he could be "an athlete even though I was really fat at the time." By 10th grade, he tipped the scales at 280 pounds and head coach Fred Fusaro warned him he would have to lose weight before playing for the varsity. So he went on a strict diet and lost 40 pounds in three months.

"I had to stop eating potato chips and drinking so much milk, which I loved," the player said. "My mother fed me strictly meat and vegetables. She even made me eat liver a few times a week."

The trimmed-down lineman became a two-way varsity starter last year as a junior, which Fusaro termed "quite an accomplishment" in Sachem's football program, which annually has rosters of 50-60 players. "He would have made all-county last year," the coach said, "but we prefer to single out our seniors for those things."

Honors notwithstanding, Wojciechowski earned a reputation in Suffolk's League I and elsewhere, particularly for his tough play on defense. "Because of Wojo, nobody ran up the middle on us this season. You knew the other team was going to go outside the guards," line coach Tony Petillo said. "Everybody in our league double-teamed him, because one guy is just not going to handle him, and that always freed up a linebacker for us. He was the fulcrum of our line. Sometimes he bends, but he never breaks."

Prior to yesterday's Division I final against West Islip, his statistics were 31 tackles, 13 assists and one sack in nine games. "He's been pretty much the leader of our team since ninth grade," guard Scott Bonvicino said. "Everyone looks up to him. He gets us going when we're down and he calms us down when we get too excited. It was also his idea in the beginning of the season for the linemen to help lift the backs up off the ground after they got tackled. That brought the team together." Hayes, Trenaman Honored

West Islip tackle Mike Hayes was chosen the winner of the Bob Zellner Award as Suffolk's best lineman. Smithtown East quarterback Eric Trenaman was picked as winner of the new James LaBue Memorial Award for the outstanding scholar-athlete, edging West Babylon linebacker Jonathan Reese and Floyd quarterback John Murphy. The awards will be made at the Suffolk Football Coaches Association's dinner at the Water Mill Inn in Smithtown Dec. 10.

THE HANSEN Award, which goes to the outstanding high school football player in Suffolk County, is presented annually by Newsday in memory of Carl A. Hansen of Westhampton. Hansen served as coach and athletic director at Westhampton, was an organizer of the Nassau-Suffolk Advisory Board and was president of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. He died in 1960. The Thorp Award, which goes to the outstanding high school football player in Nassau County, is presented annually by Newsday in memory of Tom Thorp, a football player and coach who was the first president of the Nassau County Football League. He died in 1942.

Sachem's Solid-State Defense Shuts down West Islip for Division I championship, 14-0
Copyright Newsday Inc., 1986


Sachem's football players were determined to regain the Suffolk Division I title that had eluded them in playoff finals the past two seasons. "We figured that three years was enough time to wait," senior back Ralph Isernia said. "It's back where it belongs."

Sachem defeated West Islip, 14-0, before an estimated 4,500 fans at West Islip yesterday to win the Division I championship for the fifth time in the past 10 years. The loss snapped a 19-game winning streak for West Islip (9-1), which had beaten Sachem, 24-7, in last year's title game. "They beat us three times in the last two years," tackle Gary Beutel said, gripping the trophy. "We said to each other, `Enough is enough.' "

Sachem's defense dominated. The rush of linemen Beutel, Tony Gambino and Frank Iacono, supported by linebackers Curt Giacobbe and Jim Hackett, drove junior quarterback George Wichelns to distraction and effectively bottled up breakaway threat Joe Prevosto. West Islip, which made only two first downs in the first three quarters and never got inside Sachem's 30-yard line, was held to 38 yards rushing and 57 passing.

Sachem (9-1) controlled the ball, driving 60 yards behind the running of Dave Shanahan (19 carries, 109 yards) for a touchdown on its first possession. A third-down pass for 23 yards from quarterback John Walsh to Gary Comstock was the key play. Isernia plunged 1 yard for the score. "The old `Sachem offense,' " Isernia said, "right up the middle of the other team."

Sachem scored again just before halftime on a 62-yard drive that was aided by an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. Comstock made a diving catch of Walsh's wobbly 32-yard pass in the end zone with 46 seconds left. "It wasn't pretty," Walsh said, "but he saved it with a great catch. We waited all year for this game."

West Islip co-captain Brian Bowers called it "the worst loss I've ever been through in my life. Getting behind like that, we couldn't generate any offense."

In the fourth quarter West Islip threatened with pass completions to Bowers, Mike Capasso and Bill Bjerke, a standout wingback and linebacker who played with a painful hip-pointer suffered in the Nov. 22 victory over Brentwood. But Giacobbe intercepted a pass at his 20 after the ball bounced out of the hands of two West Islip receivers.

Sachem's players celebrated by dousing coach Fred Fusaro with a pail of water in the closing seconds and carrying him onto the field when the game ended. Fusaro grinned and said, "My boys played a fantastic game."

Maiello earns another addition for Sachem's award collection
Copyright Newsday Inc., 1990


The trophy case at Sachem High School is filled with plaques and pictures honoring some of the most dominant linemen to have played high school football in Suffolk.

There is Shawn McNamara, All-America, Parade Magazine, 1978-79; Larry Iacono, honorable mention All-America, National Coaches Association, 1983; Mike Farley, Zellner Award winner as the best lineman in Suffolk, 1983; Mark Wojiechowski, Hansen Award winner as the best player in Suffolk, 1985; and, John (Jumbo) Elliott, team captain, 1982 - future All-America at Michigan and a current offensive lineman for the Giants.

When Peter Maiello first came to Sachem, he would walk by that case and dream one day he'd be there, too. It seemed farfetched back then. He was a sophomore. He weighed 190 pounds.

"If you were in that showcase, you were good - real good," Maiello said. "You think about being there, too. Then you realize it isn't easy."

Easy or not, next year a picture of Maiello also will hang in that case, because the 6-4, 255-pound All-Long Island senior offensive tackle is the 1990 recipient of the Zellner Award. He was selected from a field of finalists that include Comsewogue lineman Brian Tarrant, Bellport center Jeff Cipp, Southampton lineman Andre Johnson and Lindenhurst lineman Curtis Duncan.

"I always felt Peter was going to be a good player," Sachem coach Fred Fusaro said. "He was perceptive. He understood blocking schemes. He had the ability to work within the concept of what we tried to do. He had quick feet. The only question was whether or not he'd ever get big enough to become {a dominant} lineman. Once that happened, I was sure he would be a good one."

Maiello, though, was not so sure. Even after he grew to 255 pounds between his sophomore and junior year - "I went on the peanut butter and jelly diet," he said. "Eight sandwiches a day and lift, lift, lift." - he could still see weaknesses in his game. Although he improved to pressing 315 pounds prior to this year, he wasn't sure if he had all the skills.

"I knew I had to get big," he said. "Play big. I knew I had to have a good year. This year, I did those things."

The season started with an impressive performance against Brockton, Mass., despite a 42-26 loss to the team then ranked No. 5 in the nation by USA Today. Team statistics indicate he successfully blocked his opponent in more than eight out of every 10 attempts, and he was often the lead tackle for running back Larry Burns, who gained over 1,200 yards for the Flaming Arrows.

Now, Maiello is being recruited by Penn State, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Rutgers and Wisconsin.

"It's probably the toughest position on the field, playing tackle," he said. "There are so many different blocking assignments you have to remember. You have to watch for stunts, blitzes and all sorts of moves, and if you don't block well, the backs don't run well. What I like about it is that first contact, the fact that you're this close to people" - he motioned with his hands to emphasize the distance - "and that it's nasty, dirty, down there. I like to fire out, hit people. Now, I think I do it well."

A lot of people are in agreement.

They're Lighting the Way
Copyright Newsday Inc., 1993


Getting down in the trenches brought new meaning to the players of the Sachem football team this summer. Instead of battling opponents at the line of scrimmage, the Flaming Arrows found themselves excavating 3,000 feet of trenches for light stantions to be installed at their football field.

"It was a total community effort," said Sachem football coach Fred Fusaro. "We worked all summer with volunteers, parents, players and coaches to make this happen."

The end result allowed Fusaro to live what he called "the dream" of bringing night football to Sachem. The crowd responded - about 3,600 fans turned out to watch a team that has averaged 750 for afternoon games. And the team responded, posting a 30-0 win over Ward Melville.

"Night football is where it's at," Fusaro said. "The atmosphere is so exciting."

Fusaro hoped that this was just one more step in the direction of bringing more night football to Long Island. Fusaro added he hopes the lights will allow for the Long Island football championships to be played in Suffolk in alternating years with Nassau, where two of the four games last year were played at night at Hofstra Stadium.

With the exception of Greenport, where Friday night football rules, no other districts on Long Island have night games.

"I would like to think that other schools are looking at what we've done and making plans to do it for themselves," said Greenport athletic director Paul Davis. "Our `Let There Be Light Committee' would like to see more sports under the lights. We had 1,200 people at the game on Sept. 18 and that was without playoff implications. It's become a great social event here."

Fusaro expected a larger gate due, as people who normally miss the games on Saturday get the chance to attend.

Becky DelOrfano, whose son Dan is a two-way starting tackle for Sachem, is proud to be a part of what the Sachem community has built.

"I'm from San Antonio where the people lived and breathed their Friday night high school football," she said. "Long Island is a different mindset. But these people here have really put out."

Fusaro noted that no taxpayer money was used for the project.

"Not one red cent," he said. "And in this climate people should know that there are ways to fund projects wihtout taxes. If we get 2,000 people at a night game at $2 a head we're generating funds for the entire school and that's important."

At St. Anthony's, the coaching staff was so inspired by the turnout at a night alumni game in Kings Park over the summer they asked athletic director Don Buckley to consider trying a night game out.

"There was wonderful school spirit and we had a real positive experience," Buckley said. "We plan to do it again next year."

Others will follow.

THE HANSEN AWARD / COMEBACK PLAYER / After leaving, O'Neal returns to glory
Copyright Newsday Inc., 1995)


HE HAD SEEN THE talent, recognized the potential, at the earliest of ages - at a summer football camp when James O'Neal was in sixth grade

- and maybe that was what hurt the most. Because Sachem football coach Fred Fusaro had invested the time, had talked to O'Neal, had talked to his mother, Catharine, about the future and about all the good things to come, if he was willing to work hard for them.

Then one afternoon when he was in 10th grade, O'Neal had taken all that good advice and simply dismissed it, just like that - without one word of warning, without even a goodbye.

That was in the fall of 1993. One afternoon, O'Neal was there, a sophomore running back on the varsity. The next afternoon, he wasn't. Then one afternoon, maybe two months after he left the team, Fusaro saw him with some friends in the gymnasium.

"I walked over to him," Fusaro said, "and I pulled him aside and I told him. I said, `You're the biggest disappointment of my entire coaching career.' I had been talking to this kid since sixth, seventh grade, telling him what he had to do to get better, telling him how good he could be. I said, `To do what you did, walk away, without even talking to me? Without letting me know? I'm really disappointed in you.' "

Then, Fusaro turned and walked away, washing his hands of James O'Neal. It seems strange to think now, but O'Neal, the kid who made the varsity team at Sachem as a sophomore, almost did not play his junior and senior years and almost threw in the towel on a career that last night saw him win Newsday's Carl Hansen Award as the most outstanding football player in Suffolk County for 1995. The other finalists were Carlton Rowe of Whitman and Nick Hartofilis of St. Anthony's. The award was presented at the Suffolk All-County Football Dinner at the Marriott Windwatch in Hauppauge.

"Tell you the truth," Fusaro said, "even with his talent, I didn't care if he ever played football for me again. Not after what he did."

O'Neal said he spent that entire winter soul-searching and decided he wanted to play football again, that he did have talent and that he wanted to use it. So, he apologized to Fusaro, and he came back with a new attitude. "He was a different kid," Fusaro said.

O'Neal rushed for 365 yards on 31 carries against Northport in his first game back, the fourth game of 1994. He finished the season with 1,601 yards and 15 touchdowns. But even that hardly prepared folks for what he did this season, when the 6-1, 190-pound senior

"It was a combination of things," O'Neal said of his decision to quit the team in 1993. "Being stupid, I guess you could call it. Not understanding the potential, not understanding that you have a chance to do something with your life. I can't fully explain it. I wasn't hanging out with the wrong people. My grades were fine. I guess I thought, `What's the big deal if I play or don't? What's the big deal, period?' "

The problem, both Fusaro and O'Neal now agree, seemed to stem from a battle raging within O'Neal, who seemed to question who he was. What he was.

O'Neal's mother is white, and his father is an African-American, and while that might seem to be a small fact in an ever-changing world where mixed-race relationships are more common than ever, it wasn't such a simple thing for a 15-year-old kid. And since he never really knew his father - "He hasn't been in the picture," said O'Neal, who lives with his mother, grandmother Jean Marotta, and foster brothers Raymond Delgado, 18, and Jason Triana, 14 - that made it tougher.

"I think that had a lot to do with it," Fusaro said. "He had somewhat of an identity crisis. But the great thing about this kid is that everyone respects him for what he is, and he gets along with everyone. He moves in different circles. He is able to cross over all lines, across all racial barriers. Everyone loves him."

"Looking back," O'Neal said, "if I didn't go through what I did, I would never have gotten where I got. And I was doing fine. But I realized I had a chance to be something more, that I had these talents and I wasn't using them. I needed to use them again."


O'Neal always had been a wonderful player, even if - and, this
is hard to believe now, seeing him - he had spent much of his
childhood as a lineman.

"I was always the fastest," he said. "We'd race, and I'd always beat everyone. But I was bigger than everyone else" - 5-7 in sixth grade - "and I was this chubby kid, and they had weight limits in all the Pee Wee leagues so I played line."

He was an offensive lineman and defensive lineman on the junior
high school team, too, before moving to running back and defensive
end on the eighth-grade team, where he averaged 100 yards per game
and scored 14 touchdowns in six games.

Fusaro remembered a five-touchdown game by O'Neal in a junior varsity game against Brentwood. He was in awe back then. He is still in awe. He even credits O'Neal, who will visit Georgia Tech, Iowa State and Wake Forest, with saving the season when Fusaro walked into the locker room after a midseason loss to Longwood and told the team it had a choice to make: throw in the towel or get it done, win and make the playoffs. O'Neal stood up and told them all, "There is no choice."

His teammates even carried him off the field on their shoulders after they beat Longwood, 21-0, to win the Suffolk Division I title on Nov. 25.

"The barometer we use for greatness is what?" Fusaro said. "Having a back run for 1,000 yards. He doubled that and then some, so what does that say? I just know one thing. We'll never have a back do that again, not here. Not in my lifetime, we won't. He was special."
Sachem Savors Title Win
Copyright Newsday Inc., 1995)


There were two ways the Sachem football team could go after a regular-season drubbing by Longwood. Two ways to go after that demoralizing loss left the Flaming Arrows in sixth place in Suffolk Division I with a 3-2 record.

"It was their choice," Sachem coach Fred Fusaro said. "I told them in a meeting they could fold up the tent and pack it in or get it together and run the table to make the playoffs."

After Fusaro's challenge, halfback James O'Neal stood and challenged his teammates, saying there was no choice to make.

The following week, Sachem buried top-seeded Patchogue-Medford and closed the season with wins over Floyd and Smithtown to finish in third place.

The Flaming Arrows were hot.

After exacting revenge on a Lindenhurst team that had beaten them in the season opener, the Flaming Arrows rode the broad shoulders of O'Neal, who rushed for three touchdowns, and shut out previously unbeaten Longwood, 21-0, to capture the Division I title before 3,800 fans in Middle Island.

It was the school's first Division I title since 1986. And it was the first shutout this season for the Flaming Arrows, who will play Lawrence in the Long Island Class I Championship Game at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Hofstra.

O'Neal raised his season touchdown total to 32, shattering the Long Island record of 29 touchdowns in a season set by Amos Zereoue of Mepham in 1993 and tied by Billy Fowler of St. Anthony's this season.

"I never doubted what our kids could do," Fusaro said. "But I never envisioned shutting these guys out. We had tremendous team chemistry and this one was really sweet."

Sachem's effort was herculean.

The Flaming Arrows (8-2) had shut down the division's top offense and capitalized on four Longwood turnovers. Sachem had come back to beat a Longwood team (9-1) that had left it for dead, 35-14, buried beneath a mud-soaked 21-point fourth-quarter wreckage on the Flaming Arrows' home field a month ago, prompting that postgame meeting.

The vaunted Longwood defense was brilliant in holding O'Neal, who has 2,033 rushing yards, to 110 yards on 36 carries. But it was Sachem quarterback Matt Clark (11-for-16, 130 yards) and wideout Will Campbell (six receptions, 77 yards) who did the damage.

"They were keying Jim and I had to step up," Clark said. "That's why I play quarterback. When they took him out of the offense, the O-line had to give me time and I had to find the receivers."

Clark completed four crucial third-down passes in the game. The first came on the third play of Sachem's 55-yard, 14-play touchdown drive, which was capped by O'Neal's 3-yard scoring run in the second quarter. Clark found Bill Peupile for 6 yards and a first down on that play and later connected with Jim Dee for 12 yards on a fourth-and-4 pass.

"He's been overshadowed by O'Neal's performance," Fusaro said of Clark. "But he's a real good quarterback."

The teams waged a defensive battle into the fourth quarter, when Sachem defensive back David Caputo intercepted two passes that set up two touchdowns. Caputo returned his first interception to the Lions' 17, setting up O'Neal's 3-yard scoring run with 8:05 left. His second theft at the Lions' 40 set up O'Neal's 1-yard touchdown dive.

"We preached all season not to make turnovers," Longwood coach Kevin McCarthy said. "And we didn't do it all season - until today. That was the best defensive effort I've seen from Sachem in four years."

Longwood's Jonas Nicholson rushed for 123 yards on 20 carries but never broke the long run.

"I'm going to talk to the team {tomorrow} and stress how much we accomplished," McCarthy said. "We had a great season. It just ended sooner than we thought."

Longwood, the fifth seed, beat top-seeded Patchogue-Medford twice, No. 2 Sachem and No. 4 Connetquot.

"Our defense rolled a donut," Clark said. Now Sachem can roll to Hofstra.

LONG ISLAND CLASS I CHAMPIONSHIP GAME / Sachem Does All But Win
Copyright Newsday Inc., 1995)


Sachem knew all about Lawrence and its big-play offense. The Flaming Arrows knew about tailback Vaughn Sanders, quarterback Greg Nunn, fullback Bashawn Dixon and receivers Kenroy Wallace and Chamari Willis.

So Sachem's game plan going into yesterday's Long Island Class I Championship Game was logical: Make Lawrence play defense.

It worked, too. Sachem ran 63 plays to Lawrence's 30. The Flaming Arrows controlled the ball for 29 minutes to Lawrence's 19. In the second half alone, Sachem ran 36 plays to the Golden Tornado's 14.

However, making Lawrence play defense and scoring against that defense proved to be two different things. Except for Matt Clark's 1-yard touchdown run that capped a 17-play, 66-yard drive with 10:58 left in the first half, Sachem couldn't get into the end zone and ended up losing, 14-7.

The Flaming Arrows' inability to score was a source of frustration for tailback James O'Neal.

"It was unbelievable," O'Neal said. "We kept moving the ball into the red zone {inside the 20-yard line}, and then we didn't execute."

The 6-1, 190-pound tailback, who entered the game with 32 touchdowns and 2,045 rushing yards, carried 43 times for 137 yards, enabling him to set a Long Island mark of 2,182 yards. But those were just numbers because O'Neal didn't cross the goal line against Lawrence (10-1).

Sachem coach Fred Fusaro looked up at the scoreboard after the game and shook his head. "Fourteen points," he said. "During the week I said if we held them to 14, we should win."

Sachem's frustration was epitomized by a 21-play, 77-yard drive that chewed up all but 30 seconds of the third quarter. O'Neal carried 16 times and gained 42 yards. However, when O'Neal headed for the left side on fourth-and-3 from the Lawrence 10, he was stopped by Dixon after a 1-yard gain. The drive was over and Sachem (8-3) had nothing to show for it.

"When you drive, you've got to finish it," Fusaro said. "You've got to get it into the end zone."

Sachem's last chance to score began at its 44 with 3:44 remaining. O'Neal ran for 3, 4 and 5 yards. First down. Then he went for 7 and 6 yards. Another first down. O'Neal ran for 6 more and Clark picked up 6. First down at the Lawrence 19. Sachem was inside the 20-yard line, inside the red zone again.

"We knew this was going to be a four-quarter game," Sachem senior defensive back Dave Caputo said. "We knew it was going down to the wire."

Clark lost 1 yard on first down. Then, on the last carry of his glorious career, O'Neal ran 8 yards to the Lawrence 12. Two plays later, Dixon knocked down Clark's fourth-down pass and the Flaming Arrows came up empty again. For the last time.

"I love the guys on this team," O'Neal said, his voice breaking. "We had a great year, but this is the one you remember."


Sachem's Very Special Win
Copyright Newsday Inc., 1996


The Longwood football team braced for the inevitable Friday night. The Lions stood on the visitor's sideline and stared onto the field as their defense readied for Sachem's fourth-and-goal attempt from the 1-foot line with 14 seconds left.

In a game that was seemingly lost in the first quarter when Longwood opened a 20-point lead, Sachem stood knocking on victory's door. At stake was first place in Suffolk Division I and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. And it came down to 1 foot to paydirt.

The Flaming Arrows came to the line, quarterback Doug Shanahan called the signals and the big offensive line blew cold air toward a Longwood defense that dug itself in and stacked the middle. Big-time play, big-time division, under the lights, 4,300 screaming fans, title on the line.

At the snap the lines crunched the neutral zone as Sachem doubled down on the tackle, kicked out the end and halfback Ted Peterson looked for a crack in the defensive unit's front wall. Peterson bounced into the end zone and the place went wild as the Arrows erased a 26-6 deficit and pulled out an improbable 27-26 win.

"I have to catch my breath here," Sachem coach Fred Fusaro said. "This is my 26th year coaching and I'd have to say that was one of the best wins ever. To be down by that much against such a good team and never, never give up is something special. I thought it was over - but these kids showed me what tremendous confidence they have in themselves."

None more than halfback Peterson, who rushed for 185 yards on 14 carries and scored three second-half touchdowns to lead Sachem to its seventh straight win.

"He stepped it up a couple of levels and made the difference," Longwood coach Joe Cipp III said. "He exploded into our kids and moved them backwards."

Peterson ignited Sachem with an 88-yard touchdown run with nine seconds left in the third quarter to make it 26-12. Shanahan's two-point conversion run made it 26-14. Two things made the touchdown run amazing. Peterson fumbled the pitch in the backfield but managed to scoop it up and hit the hole where linemen Ralph Gazzillo and Frank Schiavone had cleared a path. And then he outran Longwood's speedy secondary for 88 yards.

"I was shocked that {safety Marc} Riley didn't run him down," Fusaro said. "Totally shocked." So was Peterson, who said he glanced back to see where Riley was.

Riley may not have caught Peterson on that run but for good reason. He already rushed for 235 of his 266 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 49, 74 and 27 in the first half. He finished with 323 all-purpose yards and seven tackles on defense. Those three scores and a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Steven MacAleese helped the Lions (5-2) build a 26-6 halftime lead.

For Sachem, the punt block unit became a rallying point that enabled the Arrows to get back in the game. For Longwood, the punting unit proved fatal. "We stress the importance of our special teams every day," Fusaro said. "That emphasis paid off in a big way."

Sachem blocked three second-half punts to set up two of its three touchdowns. Jeremy Aragones, who blocked a third-quarter punt, recovered Frank Munsch's first blocked punt with 10:03 left. Eight plays later, Peterson scored from 5 yards. Patrick Schnepf's extra-point kick made it 26-21 with 5:01 left.

Having lost confidence in his punting team, Cipp went for it on fourth-and-7 with 1:47 left and a play-action pass went incomplete as the gamble backfired. Sachem took over at the Lions' 37 and Peterson rumbled 28 yards to the 9 on first down - tackled by Riley. Three plays later, Peterson was in the end zone.

With eight seconds left, Brian Grazidei hit Riley with a slant pass and Riley dazzled the crowd moving laterally and then downfield making tacklers miss three times before getting tackled at the Sachem 34 as time expired. And while Riley lay motionless from exhaustion, Sachem piled into a heap beside him in celebration.




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