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Dalers Come Up Short in Nassau Championship

The Farmingdale Dalers took on the Freeport Red Devils for the Nassau County Conference I Championship last Thursday at Hofstra University. Freeport had won the last two titles, and beat Farmingdale in last season’s championship game. Farmingdale beat Freeport, 42-39, during the regular season.

Freeport Quarterback Isaiah Barnes took the snap on the third overall offensive drive of the game and threw a pass over the middle that sailed over receiver Jere Brown and Dalers cornerback Pat Starke. The two players tangled feet and both ended up on the ground. It first appeared to be great coverage by Starke, but the referees called pass interference and gave Freeport the automatic first down. On 2nd and goal, Barnes took the snap and tried to run it in himself, but was stuffed by the Daler defense.

Linebacker Carl Brescia stripped the ball out of the junior quarterback’s grasp and pounced on it. Farmingdale took over inside their own 10 yard line. On 4th down, the Dalers made the obvious choice to punt the ball. Brown caught the punt, ran across to the opposite sideline, and picked up plenty of blocking. A quick cut at the 10 yard line towards the middle of the field easily took him into the end zone for the game’s first points, and Freeport led 7-0 with less than three minutes to play in the opening quarter.

Farmingdale’s next drive began at its own 28 yard line. Quarterback Sal Tuttle handed the ball to running back Kevin Wahl, who was initially stuck at the line, then switched his direction and gained 38 yards. A few plays later, from the 13 yard line, Tuttle dropped back, scrambled to his left, and lofted a well-placed throw to Starke to put the Dalers on the board with 10 seconds left in the quarter.

The Red Devils returned the following kickoff 70 yards to Farmingdale’s 26-yard line. Freeport worked the ball inside the 10, and scored on a handoff to running back Dan Olivier to take a 14-7 lead. Farmingdale’s next possession resulted in a punt, as did Freeport’s next possession.

The Dalers’ offense took over at their own 43-yard line. After a carry by Wahl, Brian Prendergast took a handoff straight through a hole in the middle of the field, and then cut to his right, for a 47-yard TD. The game was tied 14-14 with a little more than six minutes left in the second quarter.

The Red Devils responded with an 85-yard drive and regained the lead. Four handoffs took them from the 15-yard line to almost midfield. Barnes then fired a strike to receiver Jeff Williams, who, despite being double covered by Farmingdale, leaped and made a great catch to take the Red Devils to Farmingdale’s 22-yard line. On the next play, Barnes threw a well-placed pass to Brown and Freeport regained the lead, 21-14.

The Dalers had less than three minutes before halftime to answer Freeport’s score. Starke returned the kickoff to Farmingdale’s 27 yard line. From the 31 yard line, Tuttle threw a screen to Wahl, took the offense to Freeport’s 39 yard line. A few plays later, on 3rd down and short, Wahl took a handoff 30 yards straight through the middle of the field for a TD. The extra point tied the score 21-21.

Freeport had just over a minute to score before the half. But Barnes overthrew a pass to his intended target and it was intercepted by defensive back Eric Saur. The Dalers opted to take a knee, so 21-21 was the score at halftime.

Farmingdale began the second half at the 19-yard line. After Tuttle ran for a 19-yard gain, he threw a perfect deep ball to Starke, moving the Dalers to Freeport’s 23 yard line. From the 11-yard line, Tuttle took the snap, and then took off into the end zone and Farmingdale had its first lead of the game. The extra point was no good, but Tuttle’s TD gave his team a 27-21 lead four minutes into the quarter.

Freeport and Farmingdale exchanged punts over the next four minutes of play. Freeport then began a drive from its 46-yard line. Exclusively using handoffs, they took the ball into Farmingdale’s 10-yard line. At the end of the quarter, the score remained 27-21.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, on 3rd and goal, Barnes threw a short screen to Williams for a seven yard TD. The Red Devils took a 28-27 lead.

Farmingdale’s offense came right back. A 32-yard pass from Tuttle to Prendergast brought the Dalers to the 40-yard line. Tuttle then faked a handoff to Wahl, and ran it himself, untouched, through the middle of the field before being brought down at the 1-yard line. One play later, Wahl took a handoff and was stopped before the end zone, but reached the ball over the goal line for a TD. His second effort gave the Dalers a 33-28 lead. The offense stayed on the field to attempt the 2-point conversion, to make up for the missed extra point. Tuttle, under pressure, rolled to his left and lofted a pass to Prendergast, who was tackled by Jere Brown just before reaching the end zone. The score stood at 33-28 with 9:30 left in the game.

The Red Devils’ ensuing drive began at their 30-yard line. On 3rd and 6, Barnes faked a handoff and found an open receiver for the first down. Barnes then perfectly threw a pass, over Prendergast, to his receiver and moved his offense to the Dalers’ 36-yard line. The junior quarterback then ran it himself to the 20-yard line for a first down. On 3rd and 3, Barnes gave the ball to receiver Evan Lapice on the end around. Lapice ran the ball to the left for a first down, inside the 10-yard line. The Farmingdale sideline went furious, wanting a holding call on Freeport’s offense. A few plays later, on a crucial 3rd down, Barnes hit Brown with a pass, despite close coverage by Pat Starke, for a four yard TD. Brown’s TD was his third of the game. Barnes then ran it in himself for the 2-point conversion, and Freeport led 36-33.

After Prendergast took the kickoff to the Dalers’ 37-yard line, Farmingdale had two and a half minutes, as well as three timeouts, to save its season. Two screens to receiver Rodney Torruella gave the Dalers 1st down and 10 from the 50. A pass from Tuttle to Prendergast picked up 11 yards and another first down.

After a 5-yard screen to Wahl, an incomplete pass and a handoff to Wahl lost a yard; Farmingdale faced a vital 4th down and 6, from the 36-yard line. Forty seven seconds were left on the clock. Sal Tuttle, from the shotgun, took the snap. Freeport got great penetration, and Tuttle was forced to scramble back as far as the Dalers’ 47-yard line. Tuttle then began to run forward, and decided to run for the first down. Blocking on the outside from the receivers gave Tuttle an opening to the 29-yard line, the line to gain, where the quarterback stepped out of bounds. But the referee did not give the Dalers a favorable spot. The chains were brought across the field to measure, and Farmingdale was a football short of the first down. The Freeport Red Devils became Nassau County Champions for the third year in a row. Freeport will face the Suffolk County Conference I champion, William Floyd, in the Long Island Championship game on Friday, Nov. 26 at Hofstra.