Calhoun tops Mepham in OT thriller


Calhoun couldn’t have picked a better time to finally beat its neighborhood rival.

Quarterback Nick Turrini rushed for 250 yards and two touchdowns and Jonathan Ieraci booted a 19-yard field goal in overtime as the sixth-seeded Colts advanced in the Nassau Conference II playoffs with a thrilling 24-21 quarterfinal win at No. 3 Mepham last Saturday.

According to Calhoun head coach Brian Moeller, it was the Colts’ first win over the Pirates since 1983.

“I’m really proud of the way the kids played,” said Moeller. “They were tough, they didn’t quit, they dug deep.”

Calhoun (5-4) carried a 21-7 lead into the fourth quarter before Mepham (5-4) staged a furious comeback to force overtime. Four plays into the last quarter, Pirates sophomore quarterback William Kender rolled right and found senior Anthony Paolillo in the back corner of the end zone from eight yards out to cut the margin in half.

The Mepham defense forced a three-and-out on Calhoun’s next possession and started its ensuing drive near midfield. The Pirates were faced with a 3rd-and-1 at the Colts 15, when hulking running back Matthew Hegi received the snap in a wildcat formation and powered up the middle for 10 yards. The 205-pound junior powered his way into the end zone on the next play to tie the game.

The Pirates had a chance to win in regulation, but Cory Lichtman’s 47-yard field goal attempt with a strong wind at his back fell short with 4 seconds left.

“We didn’t start the way you would hope,” Mepham head coach Anthony Cracco said. “I was proud of the kids bouncing back and forcing overtime.”

Mepham possessed the ball first in overtime, but the Calhoun defense rediscovered its strong play from the first half and limited the Pirates to three yards. Lichtman’s 34-yard field goal attempt then sailed wide.

The rejuvenated Colts advanced the ball to the 1-yard line and won the game on Ieraci’s field goal. It was Calhoun’s second playoff win in school history, with the other coming last season at MacArthur. The Colts will now face top-seeded Garden City (9-0) in the semifinals at Hofstra on Thursday at 4 p.m. after the Trojans defeated Valley Stream Central, 35-14.

Calhoun held Mepham to two yards on the opening possession of the game and took over on its own 11-yard line after a downed punt. But on the first play from scrimmage, Turrini ran around the left end and blew by the Pirate defense on his way to a stunning 89-yard touchdown run.

“It was a read,” he said. “I read it right and I hit the hole, the lineman blocked off and I just finished it off from there.”

The Colts doubled their lead on their next possession when Turrini broke through the line on a 4th-and-inches play and scampered 40 yards for his second score. Mepham got on the scoreboard with 7:31 left in the second quarter on Hegi’s 2-yard run.

Calhoun regained its 14-point lead on its first possession of the second half on Ariel DeJesus’s six-yard touchdown run. DeJesus finished with 122 yards on 20 carries.