Heavy rain and strong winds forced the cancellation of Hewlett’s Homecoming parade and festivities Saturday afternoon, but the Bulldogs had plenty of bright spots on the field in a 20-8 upset victory over Lynbrook in Nassau Conference III.
Junior quarterback Matt DeCicco rushed for a pair of touchdowns, including the go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter, and senior tailback Luke Rochler provided the insurance — a 6-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes remaining following a defensive takeaway — as Hewlett (2-1) won its home opener.
Lynbrook (2-1), which totaled 76 points in victories over Bethpage and Valley Stream North, managed just a late first-half touchdown and two-point conversion from senior Ramon Calderon on a day where Mother Nature proved a formidable opponent for both teams.
“All the credit goes to our players and assistant coaches,” Hewlett head coach John Palladino said. “Whenever you beat someone ranked ahead of you it means a lot, especially a team like Lynbrook that’s well-coached and had a big win over Bethpage to open the season.”
Things started well for the Owls when senior Michael Hendrickson broke a 33-yard run on the first snap of the game, but the drive stalled just inside Hewlett territory. Hendrickson was unstoppable in the first two games, scoring four touchdowns to lead an impressive 35-13 romp at Bethpage followed by four more in a 41-21 home win over Valley Stream North.
“Michael has had a great beginning to the season and has been more than we expected,” Lynbrook head coach Dave Yaker said of Hendrickson, who in the fourth quarter had the visitors’ only other double-digit gain against an inspired Hewlett defense. “Our inexperience and youth showed in today’s game against a team that is well-coached and experienced in many spots.”
The Bulldogs marched 83 yards on their opening possession and took the lead with 10:49 remaining in the second quarter on an electric 19-yard touchdown run by DeCicco, a star hurdler and last year’s JV starting quarterback who in Week 2 had 242 yards and three scores on the ground in a 46-13 victory over Mineola. “Matt’s a tremendous competitor and his track background speaks for itself,” Palladino said. “When it’s crunch time, he’s someone you want carrying the ball.”
Hewlett’s lone miscue — a fumble recovered by Hendrickson in the red zone in the final minute of the half — allowed the Owls to take an 8-7 lead into the locker room. Calderon scored from 3 yards out with less than 10 seconds left and added the 2-point conversion after the Bulldogs jumped offside on the extra-point attempt.
Lynbrook still led midway through the fourth quarter when Hewlett converted a pair of fourth downs to keep the chains moving on its eventual game-winning drive. After a pass interference call in the end zone, DeCicco’s 1-yard touchdown run made it 13-8 with 6:12 to go.
The teams then traded punts, and DeCicco’s perfectly placed 57- yard boot pinned the Owls at their own 1 with 3:37 left. Senior Zane Frederick-Branch’s interception on the first snap of the series set up Rochler’s late touchdown.
“Our offensive line got a good push all day and the guys on defense were flying all over the field,” Palladino said.
Junior Thierry Labossiere also had a takeaway for Hewlett, which hosts defending county champion Plainedge Friday at 6 p.m. On tap for Lynbrook is a visit from Wantagh next Saturday at 2 p.m.