For a moment, it appeared as though Oyster Bay could pull off one of the nicest upsets in program history. But in the end, East Rockaway’s powerful rushing game and stubborn defense proved too much for the Baymen.
Franklin Infante continued his torrid start with 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns and Julian Palma ran for a pair of scores and threw for another as the Rocks remained undefeated with a 34-12 win over the Baymen last Saturday, spoiling Oyster Bay’s first-ever football game at the new Vernon Turf.
Aiden Green also scored for East Rockaway (3-0), which has averaged over 40 points in 2021. “I thought (the Baymen) were tough,” Rocks head coach Russell Pajer said. “They capitalized on our mistakes and they played hard. We knew it was going to be a tough game.”
Bradley Lopes and Brian Duke scored the first points of the season for Oyster Bay (0-3), but the team’s losing streak still reached 12 games.
“I was pleased with the effort,” Oyster Bay head coach Daniel Ruskowski said. “This is the first game that we had almost a full team. It’s just taking time to gel together.”
East Rockaway, which posted a 70-27 win in last season’s matchup, drove deep into Oyster Bay territory early in the first quarter when Lopes scooped up a fumble following a completed pass and scrambled 87 yards to give Oyster Bay a stunning 6-0 lead.
“We’re getting more turnovers on defense than we’ve given up on offense,” Ruskowski said. “It was great for the Oyster Bay team to get the first points on the new field.”
The Rocks answered in the second quarter on Palma’s one-yard burst, but the Baymen regained the lead at 12-8 when Duke hauled in a 22-yard pass from fellow junior Michael Barbera. Oyster Bay was seconds away from taking that lead into halftime, but Infante caught a screen pass from Palma and zig-zagged six yards into the end zone as time expired to give East Rockaway a 16-12 advantage.
The Rocks defense took over from there, shutting out the Oyster Bay offense over the final 24 minutes. Meanwhile, Palma scored from 10 yards out for the only points in the third quarter and Green ran it in from five yards out in the fourth for his first touchdown of the season.
Infante iced the game late with a 75-yard scoring dash for his eighth rushing touchdown of the season and ninth score overall.
“The second half changed the whole game,” Pajer said. “We recovered an onside kick and basically took control of the game at that point.”
East Rockaway continues its playoff push this Saturday against Locust Valley, which rallied from 22 points down to stun the Rocks in last season’s Nassau IV quarterfinal game. But Pajer said that revenge will not be on his team’s mind this time.
“We don’t get tied up in that stuff,” he said. “This is this season, it’s this team. We’re going to prepare like it’s the championship game.”
Oyster Bay will try for its first win since 2018 against Cold Spring Harbor on Saturday before a showdown with winless Malverne on April 16.