For the second consecutive season, Oceanside upended Baldwin in a dramatic first-round playoff showdown, edging their Conference I football rivals, 20-19, on a late defensive play as both teams battled an unforgiving wind last Saturday.
Baldwin was poised to kick a game-tying extra point after quarterback Nathaniel Holmes connected with wideout Arnold Hillian on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds remaining, but head coach Steve Carroll opted to try a go-ahead two-point conversion.
Holmes rolled right from the two-yard line as the Sailors blitzed and lineman Conner Calkin (five tackles, one sack, one forced fumble) wrapped his arms around the senior signal caller, who fell forward while releasing an errant pass. Oceanside’s Jake Lazzaro covered up Pat Hickey’s ensuing onside kick to seal the win.
“Our guys fought through adversity and were able to make plays at the end of the game,” said Rob Blount, who leads his seventh Sailors team to the semifinals during his 10-year tenure as head coach.
Carroll cited the stiff wind in his team’s face, an inconsistent kicking game and a relative lack of depth to succeed in overtime for his decision to go for two.
“Two years in a row, technically, we should have won the game,” he said, referring to the Sailors defeating the Bruins, 14-7, in the same round last year en route to capturing their first county title in 40 years. “Obviously, they had one play better than us and that’s why they won it.”
Oceanside opened the scoring in the first quarter after Baldwin’s Eric Manigault shanked a punt deep in his team’s own zone, giving the Sailors the ball at the 20-yard line. Four downs later, on second-and-goal from the two, Oceanside receiver Thomas Flavin rushed the ball into the end zone. Manigault blocked the extra point attempt by Peter Folias.
The Sailors’ offense struck again after their defense mobbed Holmes, Calkin stripped the ball and linebacker Danny Mullin recovered it at Baldwin’s 15-yard line. On fourth-and-eight from the 13, Oceanside quarterback Charlie McKee (14-for-8, 93 yards, one touchdown) hit Leo Alvarez, who carried the ball down the left sideline to post a 13-0 lead with 7:50 left in the first half.
The relentless, flag-waving wind, with gusts reportedly topping 40 mph in Oceanside, wreaked havoc on both teams’ passing and kicking games.
Baldwin adjusted by feeding Oceanside’s defense a steady diet of Manigault, who rushed for 160 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the one that cut the Bruins’ deficit to 13-7 midway through the third.
Baldwin tied the game with 10:06 left in the fourth when Holmes threw a pass in the end zone, where Hillian was knocked down before catching the ball lying on his back. But Oceanside blocked Hickey’s extra point attempt that kept the game tied 13-13.
Oceanside answered with a decisive 14-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in Flavin taking a direct snap over the goal line from six yards out with 3:50 left in the game and kicker Peter Folias notched the extra point.
“The linemen saved us a lot today,” Flavin said. “They stepped up and made all of their blocks, and the defense stepped up.”
Oceanside will face Farmingdale in a semifinal game at Hofstra at 10 a.m. this Saturday.