Carey limped into the Nassau Conference III football playoffs on the heels of three consecutive losses, including a pair of shutouts, but last Saturday the Seahawks returned to the scene of their best regular-season performance and delivered more big plays to stun district rival Elmont.
Senior quarterback Dom Rutigliano and junior receiver Nick Giacalone hooked up for touchdowns of 72 and 87 yards in the third quarter to vault fifth-seeded Carey into the lead, and it never looked back in a 28-25 quarterfinal victory.
“We had a frustrating month of October, but this is a great win and the kids deserve a lot of credit,” Carey head coach Mike Stanley said. “We had a solid week of practice and made some big plays on offense we’ve been looking for. We thought we’ve been playing playoff-type defense for a while.”
The Seahawks (5-4) forced three turnovers, including two fumble recoveries by freshman Anthony DeNicola that led to two of Rutigliano’s three touchdown passes. Rutigliano, who burned the fourth-seeded Spartans (4-5) for 339 yards and three touchdowns in Carey’s 49-27 win in Week 2, completed 14 of 29 attempts for 303 yards.
“You can’t make as many mistakes as we did and beat a quality team like Carey,” Elmont head coach Jay Hegi said. “We turned the ball over twice deep in their territory, we missed three conversions and messed up a field-goal try. All that stuff comes back to bite you in a close game.”
Giacalone had four catches for 215 yards, junior Riley DeMeo added seven grabs for 68 yards and booted four extra points, and senior Barry Moore had rushing and receiving touchdowns for Carey, which will faces No. 2 Mepham at Hofstra this Friday at 7:30 p.m. Elmont’s offense was led by seniors Michael Djalo (142 yards rushing, two touchdowns) and Chester Anderson (230 total yards, one touchdown.)
“They’ve got an explosive offense, and we needed to be on the good side of the turnover margin,” Stanley said. “That was critical.”
Carey’s first takeaway, an interception by junior Devin Hartz at the Elmont 25, wasn’t cashed in for points. But the next two were. Anderson’s 75-yard touchdown run gave the Spartans a 7-0 lead on the opening play of the second quarter, but their next series ended quickly, with a fumble at their own 25. That led to a 13-yard touchdown reception by Moore and a 7-7 halftime deadlock.
Elmont regained momentum in the third quarter on Djalo’s 52-yard touchdown run, and was driving again, with a 13-7 lead, when DeNicola pounced on a fumble at the Carey 14. Two plays later, Giacalone caught a short screen and took it the distance along the visitors’ sideline, and the Seahawks led 14-13 after DeMeo’s PAT.
Giacalone made another highlight-reel play on the next series, catching a third-and-10 deep ball from Rutigliano in stride just shy of midfield and outracing several defenders to give Carey a 21-13 lead.
Elmont opened the fourth quarter with a 67-yard touchdown drive, capped by senior quarterback Brian Jean-Baptiste’s 21-yard scoring strike to Anderson. However, Giacalone picked off the two-point conversion try to protect Carey’s 21-19 lead with 7:03 remaining.
The Seahawks made it a two-score game on the following possession. Giacalone had a 48-yard reception to the Elmont 11 and Moore finished the drive with three straight runs, including a 3-yard touchdown, and it was 28-19 with 4:09 left.
Djalo had a 3-yard touchdown run with 1:31 to go, but the ensuing on-side kick didn’t travel the required 10 yards, and Carey ran out the clock for its second playoff win over the Spartans in as many years.
“Everyone stepped up,” Carey senior lineman Frank Porcasi said.