The dichotomy between the East Rockaway and Malverne football programs is staggering. The Rocks like to grind it out, take time off the clock, and only throw the ball when absolutely necessary, while the Mules can score at the blink of an eye and don’t mind going to the air.
The contrasting styles were on display last Saturday afternoon as the teams that play just a mile and a half apart renewed the rivalry for Ocean Avenue bragging rights, but this time with a trip to Hofstra and the semifinal round of the Nassau Conference IV playoffs on the line.
The old adage about consistent, effective effort leading to success rang true. Senior Jarell Brown carried the ball 21 times for 134 yards and a touchdown to lead host East Rockaway to a 24-12 victory. Junior Caleb Alvarez (28 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown) was outstanding on both sides of the ball for the Rocks.
The offensive line comprising Joseph Amabile, Logan Ackerman, Dom Sarro, Ezequiel Espinal, Vincent Cavalli, Charles Harrison, and Edward McCann IV opened up holes enabling East Rockaway to amass 348 yards on the ground. Jordan Eveillard’s 78-yard touchdown run got the Mules within six at 18-12. Quarterback Donovan Ishmael also scored for Malverne.
“Malverne has a strong, tough, athletic team, but we believe in our system,” East Rockaway head coach Russ Pajer said. “We stayed disciplined and ran the ball hard. If we can get three yards each play, we’re going to be in every game.”
After the Rocks opened an 8-0 lead on their first possession, a 15-play drive that ate up nearly eight minutes, the Mules squandered a golden opportunity to score. A touchdown-saving tackle by Stefano Cilluffo left Malverne with first-and-goal at the one, but the Rocks defense kept Malverne out of the end zone.
The ensuing drive was huge for the orange-and-black and Dylan Henshaw. The senior fullback carried the ball four times for 64 yards on the drive, the last resulting in a two-yard touchdown run. Brown’s two-point conversion made it 16-0 with 1:07 to play in the half.
East Rockaway (6-3) increased its lead to 18-0 when Ackerman forced a fumble which Malverne recovered in the end zone for a safety. But, the Mules came storming back. A nifty 58-yard touchdown run by Ishmael with 7:11 left in the third quarter got the Mules on the board.
“We made some adjustments and got after our guys a bit at the half,” Malverne head coach Kito Lockwood said after his team finished with a record of 5-4. “We came out in the second half and played the way we expect to play for four quarters.”
East Rockaway, which converted five times on fourth down, put the game away with an 11-play drive that was capped off by a brilliant 28-yard touchdown run by Brown, accounting for the game’s final points.
The fourth-seeded Rocks will take on No. 3 Cold Spring Harbor this Friday at 4 p.m. at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.