In the NFL, John Elway became the quarterback best known for "The Drive," a last minute march downfield to score the winning touchdown. The Island Trees Bulldogs have become the high school version of "The Drive." The last three games saw the Bulldogs orchestrate last minute drives to win or tie the game. The final season game saw the Dogs defeat East Rockaway with a 10-yard option, Gerard VanLeuvan to Paul Wigdzinski, a 1 -ard OB sneak by VanLeuvan to tie the score and the extra point kick by Herb Reyes for the win. That drive brought us to the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
In the first playoff game against Roosevelt, the final drive was a 12-yard pass, VanLeuvan to Wigdzinski and the Reyes extra point kick to tie the score and send it into overtime. The Bulldogs stingy defense, led by Rich Catherall, Jude Brewer and Norberto Cabarcas denied Roosevelt a score in their first set of downs from the 20-yard line. The Bulldogs took their turn and scored on the fifth play from scrimmage. Rich Catherall put a great block on the linebacker as Mike Rossi scampered into the end zone for the winning score. Absolute pandemonium - two weeks in a row - just one more for the county title!
In the title game, Island Trees was matched against the powerful Cold Spring Harbor juggernaut. CSH narrowly beat us 24-21 during the season. Once again, with 3.48 left in the game and the Dogs down 22-14, the final drive began. Rossi and Catherall runs mixed with incredible catches by Wigdzinski, Cabarcas and Damon Moore got us to CSH's 12-goal line. On the next play, Gerard VanLeuvan took a "shotgun" snap from Brian Bennetti; side tepped a rushing defensive lineman and jogged into the end zone with a perfectly executed QB draw. The score was 22-20 with 1:08 left to play. A two-point play was the only play left to tie the game and again go into overtime. The choice was option right, however, a great defensive play by CSH stopped Catherall 2 yards short of the goal line. Living on the edge had finally come to an end.
The tremendous spirit and "clutch" performances by the Bulldogs is a testimony to the greatness of this team. They never gave up and thrived on pressure. They are truly a class act.
I would like to thank all our fans, students, faculty, alumni and community for the tremendous support and positive influence you had on our season. The coaches and players make it a game, you make it an event. We have terrific young men at Island Trees and we will be working hard to take "the drive down the turnpike" next season.