A pivotal goal-line stand during a scoreless second half proved the difference in East Meadow’s 20-16 win at Long Beach last Saturday in a Nassau Conference I football matchup.
Jets punter Eric Bernstein chased and fell on the ball at the team’s 1-yard line after an errant long snap to start the fourth quarter. But Long Beach’s offense was unable to capitalize on the ideal field position.
East Meadow’s defensive front stuffed running back Tyler Fergerson on consecutive runs up the middle and knocked quarterback Aiden White from plunging over the goal line on a naked bootleg. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, the Jets broke up White’s pass to wideout Zamel Goins in the end zone and took over on downs.
“We put ourselves in a bad spot there, and our defense bailed us out,” East Meadow head coach Doug Bange said. “We stopped them four times in a row. That was huge.”
The first half was a back-and-forth battle between teams vying for their first victory. East Meadow (1-2) posted the game’s first points when running back Chris Barry (11 carries, 59 yards) took an option pitch across the goal line from nine yards out at 5:51 in the first quarter.
Long Beach (0-3) answered with back-to-back touchdowns and two-point conversions to go up 16-6. Running back Amir Hodge (5 carries, 64 yards) carried the ball for 25 yards along the outside for the first touchdown late in the first quarter. White completed a 13-yard pass to Goins for the next score in the second quarter.
At 5:22 in the second, East Meadow running back Stephen Calderaro (15 carries, 56 yards) bounced outside and scored from 13 yards out to put his team within reach at 16-13. With 24 seconds left in the first half, Jets quarterback Jaheim Perry sailed a 27-yard pass into the arms of wideout Harry Nicholson at the back of the end zone to put the Jets up for good.
After scoreless first halves in losses to Baldwin and Farmingdale to open the season, the Jets flipped the script at Long Beach.
“One of the things we preached this week was coming out in the first half and setting the tone and coming out up at the half, and we did that,” Bange said.
Linebacker Marc Giraud energized East Meadow’s defensive charge with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and generated one sack, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. “We had a tough start at 0-2, so we just needed a win today,” Giraud said.
Although Long Beach’s defense recovered a pair of fumbles, the offense struggled and coughed the ball up on two fumbles and a late interception.
“My kids played hard, they played their hearts out and tried to do their best and win the game,” Long Beach head coach Scott Martin said. “Hopefully we come back next week and play better.”
Long Beach travels to Oceanside on Saturday for a 2 p.m. kickoff. East Meadow hosts Massapequa at 2 p.m.