Big plays carried Clarke to playoffs


Clarke rode a season full of big plays all the way to the first round of the Nassau County Conference IV playoffs, where No. 2 Seaford took advantage of a heavy wind at its back to score 21 third-quarter points and turn a close game into a 45-21 victory on Nov. 8.

The Rams (4-5 overall) opened the second half trailing by 10 but failed to get a first down on that opening drive. Things started to go downhill on the punt, which landed inside Clarke territory thanks to the blustery conditions and gave the Vikings a short field to work with. Seaford cashed in with an 11-yard touchdown run on the 40-yard drive, and continued to pull away.

“The wind just killed us,” Clarke head coach John Boyle said. “We were playing with an 80-yard field, and they were playing with a field of 30, 40 and 45 yards. They had short fields and we weren’t able to pick up first downs. They’re a good team and we [became] limited in what we could do.”

Sophomore running back Aaron Dawson put the Rams on the board with one of the team’s patented big plays, breaking loose for a 54-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter, and senior Joe Truono capped his Rams’ career with a 49-yard touchdown late in the game to close out the scoring. Truono’s aggressiveness and quickness on offense translated well on the other side of the field as well. After beginning his senior campaign as a linebacker, injuries forced him to move up to nose guard, where despite being undersized, he managed to finish second on the team in tackles. “He’s a very aggressive kid and we needed someone [like that at nose guard],” Boyle said. “He really helped us on the line.”

The defense was anchored by senior Kevin McGowan, a senior All-County inside linebacker, who posted a team-high 60 tackles, while Clarke’s defense also received strong contributions from juniors Tyler Constantine and Danny Cornell and senior Nestor Haddo in the secondary.

The bread and butter for the Rams was a big-play offense anchored by Haddo, an All-County honoree, who scored a team-high 10 touchdowns while logging time at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. “He can do it all and our focus was on getting him the ball as much as we could,” Boyle said.

Haddo was just one of several weapons for Boyle’s offense that also included senior quarterback Peter Falgiano and Dawson. Along with Dawson, who made the jump from junior varsity as an underclassman, the Rams have junior running back Warren Gomez, who flashed his wheels with a 65-yard kick return for a touchdown in the regular-season finale, a 21-19 loss to Carle Place on Nov. 2., and junior quarterback John Zaino waiting in the wings. The offensive line stands to have considerable experience with sophomore Phil Kandell completing his second season as a starter, while sophomore James Volino and junior Bobby Siri will be second-year starters up front. “When you can get returning offensive linemen, it’s always good,” Boyle said.