The West Hempstead Rams were 36 seconds away from stunning the defending Conference IV-champion Seaford Vikings in their first-round playoff matchup last Friday night.
Leading by five points, the seventh-seeded Rams had the ball at the Seaford 38 and faced a fourth-and-14 situation. All they had to do was punt deep to all but ice the game. But what happened next can only be described as something out of a movie.
The snap was slightly high, forcing the West Hempstead punter to catch it just above his head. That slight reach gave Vikings senior defensive end Andrew Chirico just enough time to bust through the line and block the kick.
Seaford took over at the West Hempstead 43 with 28 seconds left, needing a touchdown to win the game. The Vikings resorted to some trickery on the next play as sophomore Logan Masters pitched the ball to backup quarterback Ryan Butler, who was in at running back. Masters ran up the left side and caught Butler’s toss before stepping out of bounds at the Ram 31.
The next play will go down as one of the most memorable in school history.
Masters took the snap, waited for the four receivers stacked on the right side to get down the field, and heaved the ball with all of his might. Through a sea of hands, senior tight end Sean Allen managed to catch the ball in the end zone to send the home crowd into a frenzy with 15 seconds left.
“It was a great throw, right over the defender’s head,” Allen said. “I just threw my hands up.”
Andrew Cuchel booted the extra point to make it 14-12, but West Hempstead recovered his onside kick at its own 47 with 14 seconds remaining. Senior Mark Pooran, who entered at quarterback for the first time in the game, tried to duplicate Masters’ effort. But his pass was intercepted by senior defensive end Luke Farrant, who dropped back into coverage, at the 20 to seal the improbable victory.
“It was a great game and they just made two more plays in the end,” West Hempstead head coach Dom Carre said.
Seaford (7-2) will face third-seeded Locust Valley in the semifinals at Hofstra University on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
“They played well, but we played one play better, because we didn’t quit,” said Vikings head coach Rob Perpall.
Farrant was responsible for Seaford’s other touchdown on the night when he hauled in Masters’ six-yard pass on a slant route with 7:11 left in the first quarter to put the Vikings up 7-0.
West Hempstead (4-5) closed to within a point with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half on Ryan Charles’ seven-yard touchdown catch from fellow senior Tim Shanley. The Rams took the lead on their next possession thanks to a 40-yard touchdown scamper by junior Frank Messina (76 yards on 13 carries.)
The Vikings’ offense was stagnant for most of the game before their comeback. Junior Joe Angelastro, who gained a whopping 301 yards in a 39-21 win over West Hempstead on Oct. 7, was held to just 53 yards on 19 carries.